April 25, 2010
“Miss Laura’s coming and she’s going to knock your socks off” – that’s how Alessi of Alessi’s Ark introduces the headline act. And although the Royal Box at the Palladium is empty, in Laura Marling tonight we truly have a homecoming Queen. She even says herself how good it is to be back in her hometown after touring America and the UK.
She speaks because she can, and that is the title of the album; the song itself makes a blazing finale for her final gig. She whistles, she plays guitar, she tells a funny story about how her mother thought she wrote that Neil Young song, and didn’t know it was all about heroin. She sings, and her voice in song makes us forget the girlie banter and get swept up in the emotions, the stories and the characters she invents.
They sound like folk songs, ‘our’ music, songs familiar to us – but they are all Marling’s own. That’s the clever bit. She’s writing the songs that downtrodden women down the ages yearned to sing but dared not. From the schoolgirl’s sexy daydreams Alas I Cannot Swim to the battered wife’s escape I Speak Because I Can, Laura Marling voices experiences beyond her years. Her voice itself seems to come from deep inside her self (unlike Alessi’s, which sounds like it’s from deep inside a plastic bucket – no matter).
Between The Unthanks’ authentic tradition, Joanna Newsom’s daft screechiness and Goldfrapp’s fake folksiness (thankfully now discarded), Laura Marling strides along banging her own drum. This is what holds us spellbound – we old, young and middle-aged musos, folkies, mums and daughters are all cheering but not dancing in the aisles nor even singing along. The lyrics are dark, the beats are tricky; she’s a Londoner playing the Palladium, not a bard of the Celtic twilight. Just to make sure we remember that she is now in the big time, the band overwhelms Laura’s voice sometimes and the lighting is rockstar rather than evocative. Do we really need the bass player from Boy and Bear (the warm-up band) adding to an already overblown sound? Let the girl sing! She is a star.