Laura Marling at Southbank Centre for the BBC 6 Music 10th birthday
BBC 6 Music’s birthday celebrations on Friday night were something akin to a mini music festival. The Southbank centre was brimming with music lovers and performers – all there to celebrate the radio station’s ten years of dedication to great music. It was therefore entirely fitting that the wonderfully talented British singer-songwriter, Laura Marling, was the headline act.
When Marling walked onto the stage in a giant pair of dungarees and white plimsoles, is was evident that she isn’t exactly your average pop star – despite having a line of chart topping records and a Brit Award for Best Female Artist firmly under her belt. In fact, she came across shy, and even slightly awkward, barely speaking to the audience throughout her entire set.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to criticise this lady. Marling’s music is loved and valued so much by the music station that she most likely had everyone won over before she even entered the stage. And who says that stage bravado and showmanship has anything to do with great music? If anyone has ever seen Bob Dylan’s awkward live performances, a musician Marling is frequently compared to, they will know that this certainly is not the case.
Her live set consisted mostly of songs from her recent album A Creature I Don’t Know. This record is a clear departure from her previous albums Alas, I Cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can – which were undoubtedly more upbeat and folky.
Marling’s voice is now deeper and her songs darker and more melancholic. In the past, she regularly performed with fellow “Nu-folk” musicians Mumford and Sons – a band now sometimes mocked and parodied for their country barn-dance image. Marling has evidently moved away from this. Her set was tight and understated and her songs were less personal. In a recent interview she stated that many of her lyrics in A Creature I Don’t Know are based on “imagined conversations” with historical and literary characters. This, according to Marling, adds an element of objectivity to the song writing process.
Marling’s shy and vulnerable disposition did not deter the audience from responding to every song with a rapturous applause. Her performances of My Manic and I and the cover of Neil Young’s Needle and the Damage Done had the whole room mesmerised and hanging on every word.
BBC 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne came on the stage at the end of the show to thank Marling and praise her for her contributions to the radio station. Laverne went on to compare the BBC 6 Music listeners to “one big eccentric family” and credited them for “saving the station” when it faced closure in 2010. As the audience whooped and cheered, I couldn’t think of more fitting words.
Photo: Jo Cox