A number of things could have soured the mood for Laura Marling gig-goers at Cardiff’s Tramshed on Wednesday night: The queue coiling almost around the entire venue, the confusion over vaccine passes enforced just days prior, stressed staff doing their best to placate frustrated ticket holders over the latter, and a combination of all those things causing Laura to take to the stage an hour later than planned.
When she finally does emerge – in front of a sold out room packed to bursting – the fidgeting crowd are lulled to silence with a 16-minute, non-stop medley. Laura, lit by two caged lanterns and a smoky blue hue, apologises, half-jokingly, for such a long-winded start to the show. “It was worth the wait!” the crowd assure her. Mood most definitely not soured.
This Welsh stop-off is right in the middle of the British folk singer’s first headline tour in half a decade. It’s mostly in aid of promoting her latest album, Song For Our Daughter, which garnered Grammy and Mercury Prize nominations when it was released last Spring. As well as being critically well-received, the album was conceived at the start of a new chapter in Laura’s career, moving into new creative and academic spheres: forming the duo LUMP and studying for a masters degree in psychoanalysis, among other things.
The newer material goes over as well with the eager Tramshed crowd as the older ‘classics’ do (“Master Hunter,” “Sophia,” “When Brave Bird Saved”), which Laura lampshades with another semi-apology for including. (Shut up and play the hits, ala LCD Soundsystem). More moments of levity come when she breaks into a chuckle while singing “while she did her leaving” towards the end of “The Shadows” as someone does indeed decide to leave – and in particularly noisy flip flops. Then, perhaps remembering the moment, she has another giggle during what should have been a poignant performance. None of this detracts from the modern troubadour’s ability to completely enrapture. In fact, it just makes things feel all the more cosy and intimate.
Live or recorded, Laura’s songs always sound like stories you’ve been hearing your whole life. There’s a special pleasure in seeing and hearing them performed in front of you, however; in experiencing the power of one voice, one guitar and some simple lighting effects. The audience cheers her on during some of the particularly intricate guitar or vocal work. Other times, couples sway, hand in hand, as particularly affecting lyrics soak through sweaty winter clothes (it’s an unseasonably warm October). “I don’t believe in the concept of encores,” Laura tells us. “So I’ve just saved my best songs ‘til last.” Honest and perfectly formed, just as you’d expect from a Laura Marling gig.
Tramshed, Cardiff, Wed 13 Oct
words HANNAH COLLINS photos EMMA LEWIS
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