The night I nearly missed the gig (aka Laura Marling @ O2 ABC, Glasgow)

My relationship with Laura Marling might be best described as being “one-sided”, in that only one of us considers there to be a relationship, or indeed even knows of the others existence.  I’m content for it to remain that way, though, because as it is there is also only one of us who knows that there is no chance of any romance blossoming between us.

I almost missed my date with Laura Marling last night.  In fact, there’s a part of me that wonders if I maybe did miss it and the rest of the evening took place in some fanciful dream.  I fell asleep almost as soon as I checked into my hotel room around 6.45; I had only intended on sitting down for ten minutes but the next thing I knew it was 8.57 and I had no idea how that was possible, aside from the obvious explanation that the minute hand kept ticking around the clock as normal.

I’ve been sleeping so strange at night of late, almost as though I have forgotten how to sleep.  Or at least how to stay asleep, because I keep being returned from slumber at various points through the night as the gerbil running the wheel in my mind refuses to take a comfort break.

It’s frustrating, because how to sleep is one of those things that nobody ever taught us to do, we learned it for ourselves.  Like crying and sneezing and procrastinating.  It just happened, and I’m not sure how to begin teaching myself to sleep properly again.  I went into a branch of Waterstones in Glasgow this morning hoping to find a book in the self-help section which might offer some guidance, but I couldn’t find anything on the subject and I felt unsure as to whether I could ask the shop assistant for help finding a book in the self-help section, so I left.

After a brief moment of startled panic and frustration at having missed the Laura Marling gig, I realised that my hotel was but a stone’s throw away from the ABC and that I could still make it if I wanted to.  I stumbled out of my room in a daze, nothing felt real.  I withdrew some cash from a nearby ATM, only to open my wallet and realise that I must have done this earlier.  As I climbed the stairs into the venue I could hear the unmistakable sound of live music and I assumed that I had maybe missed the first song or two of Laura’s set.  Fifty minutes later the show was finished and it transpired that it was Friday night and the ABC becomes a club at 11pm, so rather than missing two songs I had actually missed forty minutes.

The entire experience felt like a dream, a discombobulated product of my weary unconscious.  On stage Laura Marling was dressed in a heavenly white gown, the microphone stands were adorned with flowers and shrubbery and she had a band.  I have never seen Laura Marling play with a band; it was surreal.

I could tell from the way that she wasn’t looking at me that our romance wasn’t going to progress on this occasion, but her beautiful voice made up for that disappointment.  It is difficult to be sad when there are musicians like her around.  If this was a dream it’s the nicest one I’ve had in some time.

Laura Marling @ O2 Academy, Glasgow

Perhaps the best indication of a good gig is when you come out of it afterwards liking the artist even more than you did two hours previous.  I left the O2 Academy after around 90 minutes in the company of Laura Marling completely in love and adoration.

Despite still being a relatively young woman – she has only just turned 25 – Laura Marling’s music carries the heavy emotional burden of a more mature songwriter.  She still has a delicate shyness on stage, an uneasyness almost, and rarely interacts with the audience, but all of that belies the toughness in her songs.

She meanders onto stage with little fanfare.  There’s no dimming of the lights and a growing swell of anticipation to indicate an incoming rock star, rather she just appears, cast in a heavenly beam of white light.  Over the course of opener Howl she is joined on stage by the remainder of her three-piece band and we are taken into a seamless twenty minute run through Once I Was An Eagle:  Take The Night Off, You Know and an intensely passionate Breathe all featuring.  It was a breathless opening.

For all the sweetness and elegance in her voice, the whispering and sneering in the same breathe and the cool as fuck vocal infections there’s a harder edge to Laura Marling with Short Movie.  The electric guitar is plugged in for I Feel Your Love and the shoes are kicked off as new dimensions to her musical repetoire are unravelled before us.  Rambling Man and Master Hunter were given a big band makeover, though the delicacy of Marling’s guitar was never lost in the fuzz.  Short Movie closed the set in an electrical thunderstorm and it seemed fitting that way.  It was almost as though the vulnerability of her younger self and relationships was being blown away.

Laura Marling @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh

It’s sort of difficult to put into coherent words and phrases just what it was like watching the recently nominated Mercury Prize artist Laura Marling perform in Usher Hall last night, the first of eight dates on her return to the UK.

This was a unique musical experience.  I’ve seen artists play solo acoustic shows before; I’ve seen them do it well.  But this was different, this was breathless in its beauty.  Laura Marling stood in the centre of the stage, a position she barely flinched from for 90 minutes, unassuming in her black leggins and white blouse, her blonde hair tied back.  The stage lights shone down on her as though she was heaven sent, and when she opened with the first trio of songs from Once I Was An Eagle that’s exactly how she sounded, too.

Everything about this gig was understated, and yet it didn’t feel like it.  For all the isolation of Laura on the stage – it was literally her and two guitars:  no fancy strobe lighting, no video wall, no guitar techs (“my show is now 15 per cent tuning”) no bass guitar or string section – the sounds she produced with that guitar could have been played out by four people.

Every note plucked from her guitar was like a heartbeat reverborating around Usher Hall, so clear and full of life.  Her rootsy voice elegantly transports you right into the midst of her lyrics and in that bittersweet moment you live her songs.  Be it the relatively up-tempo Rambling Man or the raw anger of Master Hunter, Marling’s honeyed voice is crystal clear and crackling with emotion.

There was just the right amount of humoured interaction with the audience to provide some relief from the heavy nature of things as she told us of the charming email she had received from an author asking permission to use the line “alas I cannot swim” in a book, only for Laura to confess that she had borrowed the line from someone else.

Even now, twenty-four hours removed from the gig, I am feeling goosebumps bristle on my arms just thinking about it.  There was many a point last night where all you could do was just sit back (five rows from the stage, perfect positioning), look up at this mesmerisingly angelic figure, listen to her voice and her guitar playing and just swoon and sigh.  Her talent is remarkable.