Laura Marling at the Roundhouse
Laura Marling is a popular artist: the queue snaking away from Camden’s Roundhouse was testament to this. At 31 she has already enjoyed a heavily accoladed career since her first album was released when she was 18. She is seven albums into that career, her last release being 2020’s Song for Our Daughter.
The entire set is just Marling: a translucently blonde, spectral presence, and her guitar. While one has to applaud the cojones it takes to perform this mid-size venue in such a sparse style, it made for a performance that was too bare to captivate. There is such a thing as too much confidence for an artist, and this was a concert for an intimate venue, not the Roundhouse. The sound was thin and resulted in anyone indulging in perfectly normal mid-gig chatter to be instantly and rudely shushed. She attracted a very particular style of person and it was like being trapped in a building with 2,000 spiteful geography teachers and their most severe prefects.
Marling opened with a 15-minute rendition of Take the Night Off, segueing into Once I Was an Eagle, then into You Know. She pulled material from her extensive back catalogue and, after a brief pause for medics to attend to someone in the crowd, she continued, finally ending with Song for Our Daughter and For You. Her voice is beguiling, distinctive and rangy, but her songwriting leans more toward the musical vignette than complete tracks. There is a strange detachment to her demeanour and an aggression to her lyrics that is difficult to vibe with. The text is intriguing; it sounds smart and seems very personal, but if the logic is pressed, it doesn’t always make sense. An untitled new song contains the line “I used to suck dick for free”, which got a huge audience cheer, but one wonders what the message is.
Trying to put a finger on why Marling’s music doesn’t gel, it might be that she comes from a privileged background and folk, historically, is a working class form of storytelling, a way for people who couldn’t read or write to tell their stories. Her songs don’t have that historical urgency, meandering to the point of not having a tune. Breathless comparisons to Joni Mitchell are excessive. One can applaud Marling’s feminist credentials and her skills but, ultimately, music is for the heart, and this doesn’t quite hit home.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit Laura Marling’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Song for Our Daughter here: