Laura Marling: photo by Michael Ligon
Update[Feb 17/2010, 11:50 pm]: Review now posted below.
What I know about British singer-songwriter Laura Marling is quite limited. She just turned 20 years of age on February 1. Her debut album "Alas, I Cannot Swim" was released in February 2008 and was nominated(although, did not win) that year's Mercury Prize. Her second album entitled "I Speak Because I Can" is coming out March 22. It is the release of her second album that had brought Ms. Marling over to North America for a brief tour jaunt including a nearly sold-out date in Toronto at Lee's Palace a week ago Tuesday. She'd been on my radar for a little over a year now, although I did little during that time to really explore her music so it was much to do with buzz that motivated me to pick up a ticket for the show. Originally scheduled for the much more intimate Drake Undergound in Toronto, the show was later moved to Lee's Palace. Little did I know that she had much more of a following than I anticipated.
With me arriving a tad late for opener, Denverites Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel, there was already a healthy crowd onhand. The top-to-bottom denim clad Mr. Ratlieff performed a selection of delectable folk-rock tunes with band The Wheel delivering a good dose of melody and acoustic instrumentation including guitar, stand up bass, drums and female background vox. But it's Nathaniel's engaging vocal drawl that gave the songs teeth and the few songs where it was just him and bespectacled backup singer Julie Davis performing together, even the chattery back bar was not enough to deter the attention of most of the crowd who seemed to enjoy it immensely.
At twenty years of age, most girls that age aren't really that mature. Even Ms. Marling, as she strolled onto stage, could easily be underestimated. She looks her age, perhaps even acts her age given some of her goofy banter. However performance wise she exuded a quiet confidence usually displayed by performers twice her age. Backing her up as a band, were opener Nathaniel's band The Wheel, fleshing out her tunes as she performed a set evenly split between her debut album and her upcoming new album. She also played a competent cover of Canadian icon Neil Young's "The Needle and The Damage Done" preceding the performance with some spontaneous banter, then realizing that she was indeed IN CANADA, and suddenly feeling an intense pressure. That was perhaps expressed more for humour's sake than anything else because her cover of Neil's song was lovely. Overall, what's most astonishing is the strength of the song's. If this Toronto performance was representative of her usual live sets, Ms. Marling had a refreshingly understated sense of her self. Even when the songs aspired towards a more urgent nature, she never forced it. Vocally she could be as lovely, fragile and restrained as Joni Mitchell or perhaps Beth Orton, but there was no doubt she could display more soulful tones in her singing like fellow UK up and comer Florench Welch (of Florence + the Machine). So for a performer that I had spent little time with their music with and had purchased a ticket for their show based mostly on buzz, the gamble paid off. A truly wonderful show from a performer that no doubt should have a long career ahead of her.
I jotted down the setlist as best I could and this is what I came up with - the words in square brackets indicate what album each song came from:
Night Terror [Alas] / Goodbye England [Speak] / The Needle and The Damage Done (Neil Young cover) /
update: Updated setlist above as per the one posted at setlist.com.
Chromewaves, The Singing Lamb, Much Music, The Panic Manual, and Pandamonium also have their own reviews and or photos from the show. Happy reading.
Photos: Laura Marling, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (February 9, 2010)
MySpace: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel
MySpace: Laura Marling
ps. I have my review now up of The Magnetic Fields show from last week which took place at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.