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For as long as Laura Marling has been releasing records, comparisons have followed her. And yes perhaps it’s true – the ghosts of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Janis Ian hang very closely behind Marling’s cerebral folk compositions, however at this stage of her career it is unjust to think that she is anything other than her own woman.
For in the cavernous darkness of the Enmore Theatre, she is magnetic. Her warm, oaky voice expanding to fill the space as she twists through the opening 12-minute medley; Take The Night Off folds into You Know, into I Was An Eagle, into Breathe. There are few artists that exert this much power with so little apparent effort.
Earlier, and as intimidating a support slot for Marling may be, D.D. Dumbo fared well; whipping up frenetic and clattering percussion loops as he wrenched bright strums from his guitar. The thumping Tropical Oceans is still his finest cut; the guitar crunching around his heavy vocals, but there is enough strength in his live performance to indicate that more will come.
Having an extensive catalogue of releases behind her, Marling drew from all of them fairly evenly over her hour and a quarter set. She ducked from the recent Short Movie, back to the menacing Once I Was An Eagle track Master Hunter.
She enthrals in any emotion: when she venomously spits “How cruel I am to you/ the cruel things I do” within Breathe, or when she’s inching towards death in the sorrowful Night After Night – it is a brutally honest display.
Ghosts, her breakout single, is a curiously rushed interlude. “I try to remember what I sounded like when I was 16 and playing that song,” Marling says after its end, which perhaps goes a little way to explaining why of all the songs tonight, from across all her records, Ghosts sounds most out of place. Marling has simply grown up. Her vocals in particular, have sunk lower and grown richer, heard most impressively on Goodbye England Covered In Snow.
She dropped in a couple of covers: Dolly Parton’s Do I Ever Cross Your Mind, and a ghostly rendering of Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run The Game. She calmly explained to the loud audience that she never has, and will never do, encores, due to herself and the band being “the most British people that ever existed…we avoid anything awkward.”
So Rambling Man came close to the end, before she sung “I’m taking more risks now/ I’m stepping out of line” on the bounding closer How Can I.
Image: Laura Marling @ Enmore Theatre 2015 / Photo By Ashley Mar