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Laura Marling Speaks Because She Can

February 10th, 2010


The marvelous Laura Marling played an absolutely jaw-dropping concert last night at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. The 90’s born folk singer-songwriter shocked an audience that may have passed her in age, but certainly not in wisdom – a young Joni Mitchell in the making.

It was a perfect start to a perfect evening as Laura’s opening band, The Wheels, readied up the audience with their throaty folk harmonies that warmed my soul. It was same band members from the opening band who also took the stage as Marling’s band later in the evening. Lee’s was packed wall-to-wall with fans anxiously anticipating the start of her set.

When Marling first walked out on stage, the first obvious change of the young woman, as we knew her, was the hair-do. The pixie-cut blonde hair was replaced with a golden brown bun on the top of her adorable face. She grinned at the audience; it was her dimples immediately made me want to put her in my pocket and keep her forever. She dressed very humbly – dark jeans, an oversized brown knit sweater, and black calf-high boots. It was evident she was not there to put on a fashion show.

We were the typical too-polite-to-cheer-during-a-song Toronto crowd, appearing almost unmoved by the words this little nineteen-year-old was belting out, until the last strum of her guitar when we erupted into the most appreciative applause. Originally Marling was set to play at the Drake Hotel, due to the high demand for tickets and severe lack of space resulted in the upgrade to Lee’s Palace, which turned out to be the perfect, most intimate venue.

Musically, Laura’s vocals were nothing short of incredible and each harmony made me sigh with satisfaction as they fit together, so snug, like puzzle pieces. She played mixture of songs off both her first album, The Maniac and I, and her soon-to-be released second album, I Speak Because I Can. As a musician, it is important for an audience to see the development not only vocally (which I will re-state, was impeccable) but also lyrically. As quoted to NME magazine, Marling describes the album as dealing with “responsibility, particularly the responsibility of womanhood”. The songs off of the new album proved to the audience that this is not the same woman who gave us the musical treasures “Ghost”, “New Romantic”, and “Alas I Cannot Swim”. The woman that stood before us last night was one who sounded aged by a great deal of life experience – or perhaps she simply knew how to relate to those who have.

Some highlights from last night would be Marling’s performance of “Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)” – which was ironic seeing as last night we’d gotten the first snowfall in weeks. Despite the bone chilling weather, this song made everyone’s heart melt. “I tried to be a girl who likes to be used / I’m too good for that / There is a mind under this hat.” Marling leaves the serious tone for a moment, letting the audience enjoy the sweetest, most empowering track on the album. She warned the audience before she began the next track – “We don’t have a violinist to play part of the song, so I guess my whistling will get some exercise.” Only Laura with her acoustic guitar performed the song “Night Terror” – and yes, she did in fact whistle the violin solo, before cooing out the perfect last line of lyrics. Toronto. ate. it. up.
Marling’s cover of Canadian singer Neil Young, “Needle and the Damage Done” was another Toronto favorite and much appreciated by the audience. It was interesting to listen to Marling perform the album-titled song “I Speak Because I Can”, because it was a glimpse into what we should expect from her second album which is set to released on March 22, 2010. The songs are definitely of a darker nature, and more metaphorically alluring. It appears that many of her newer songs are cleverly referenced, for example “I Speak Because I Can” refers to the story of Odysseus from his wife Penelope’s perspective. Clever girl – “responsibility of womanhood”, I’d say.

Marling also shared her theory on how she does not understand why musicians leave their best songs for the Encore when there is always the chance that the crowd won’t call you back out! She decided that she was going to play the last song in her set and – whether we liked it or not – her encore song, which in the middle of she burst into a fit of giggles. “I’m sorry!” she explained, “Impulsive giggles!” The band stopped, the audience stopped – we all watched as Laura attempted recoup, but the giggles got the best of her. So we all joined in! It was a good feeling to know that although this young woman may have wisdom beyond her years, she hasn’t forgotten to be silly.

I would have willingly stayed there another few hours to listen to her coos, trills, and hollers. Even as Marling walked of stage I found myself unwilling to move, wishing that her set would start all over again. My bittersweet emotions in that moment urged me to purchase a t-shirt as a token to commemorate that moment in time.

Laura Marling’s concert will be a difficult performance to top, come on 2010! Show me what you’ve got.

By: Megan Chown

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