No Frills, Jus’ Feelings: Laura Marling at Somerville Theatre 9/3/2013

Talk about minimalist. While my expectations for Laura Marling’s live band weren’t huge, I definitely didn’t expect a “girl and her guitar” situation. So on Tuesday evening when Marling stepped on stage in a shapeless black frock and leggings, bearing one single acoustic guitar, I confess I was disappointed. Marling’s records have become a staple in my music catalog, particularly due to her acute ability to start a track delicately, only to later swell that melody into a frenzy of guitar, cello, bongos and howling vocals. So how could a hell-hath-no-fury track like “Master Hunter” possibly translate without its token tabla percussion? What about the looming background vocals that render “Alpha Shallows” so haunting?

About ten minutes into the opening raga from Once I Was an Eagle, I quickly resolved that Laura Marling has very little need for a backing band. In fact, she doesn’t even need a guitar tech (“it’s a frivolity,” she claimed, and joked that she spends about 20% of each concert tuning up).  Tuning breaks and all, Marling’s performance was painfully bare, which is just the point – it put the entire focus on her raw confessional lyrics. Song after song contained a line that felt stolen from my own thoughts (if I were ever to be so articulate, that is). And if I’d had a few more glasses of wine pre-concert, I might have even been brazen enough to shout an “Amen, sister!” here or there. Yet instead of hoots and hollers, the room remained pin-drop quiet for the entirety of the show; each listener arrested by their own private relationship with each song. Upon witnessing her live performance, it is all the more clear that Laura Marling has achieved the ultimate in songwriting: she has penned tracks that are equal parts intimate and universal, revealing yet relatable. And they deserved every moment of the spotlight.


Posted on by Caroline in Concert Review, M&T Favorites

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