Lau­ra Mar­ling per­form­ing at York Hall, a box­ing hall in Beth­nal Green, sounds ini­tial­ly like a bit of an mis­match. But dur­ing one of her chat­ty moments between songs, Lau­ra informs us that she used to live local­ly and she asks the audi­ence for an update on the area. These days, Laura’s an L.A. babe. ‘Come back’, a male voice shouts from the audi­to­ri­um. Lau­ra smiles, maybe a tad nos­tal­gi­cal­ly, but I don’t think Eng­land’s shores are cur­rent­ly on her agen­da; new hori­zons and expe­ri­ences and a sense of free­dom are more impor­tant right now.

There’s an incred­i­ble pow­er in the unleash­ing of the suite of songs from Once I was an Eagle that opens the evening. You could have heard a pin drop as Lau­ra sings Take the Night Off, I was an Eagle, You Know, Breathe. Rather than seek com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the audi­ence, there’s a strong feel­ing of her retreat­ing into her own head to sum­mon inten­si­ty as she sings. Her music has matured and devel­oped and life expe­ri­ences are adding pas­sion to her lyrics: respons­es to sit­u­a­tions, lovers, fights, cru­el­ty, giv­ing in to love and becom­ing vul­ner­a­ble. There’s a strong influ­ence of Joni Mitchell com­ing through in the phrasing.

I will not be a vic­tim of romance, I will not be a vic­tim of cir­cum­stance …” Haunt­ing words. That deep, almost dead­pan spo­ken deliv­ery with an under­tone of bit­ter­ness is chilling.

The set includes ear­li­er mate­r­i­al, such as Ram­bling Man, and Alpha Shal­lows with its Russ­ian bal­alai­ka feel. Both Ghosts and Good­bye Eng­land feel like very dif­fer­ent mate­r­i­al from her most recent work.

Laura Marling singing at York Hall

As for the chat, Lau­ra regales us with a cou­ple of amus­ing sto­ries. One involves tak­ing a cab to Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the cab dri­ver enquires who is play­ing tonight. ‘Me’, she says. But you get the feel­ing that this is a side of the evening that she only enjoys to a cer­tain extent and she looks relieved to get back to tun­ing her gui­tar and move onto her next song.

Lau­ra famous­ly doesn’t do encores, she informs us we should imag­ine the song before last is the end of the set, if that’s what we want. This is in keep­ing with the rest of this evening’s per­for­mance: no frills, uncom­pro­mis­ing, at times melan­choly, powerful.

York Hall

Tick­ets £14 approx. Sup­port: Nick Mulvey.

York Hall is about 3 min­utes from Beth­nal Green tube sta­tion, and Cam­bridge Heath over­ground. Now a sports hall and box­ing cen­tre run by local Tow­er Ham­lets coun­cil, York Hall has an inter­est­ing his­to­ry. Read here

Bar down­stairs, with bot­tles of Car­ling (500ml, £4.50).

Seating/standing: There’s the choice, once inside, of down­stairs stand­ing, or upstairs where there are two rows of seats in a horse­shoe shape. The bal­cony is fair­ly low so the seat­ing area does­n’t feel too distant.

Pre-gig drink/food We dis­cov­ered a decent, ungen­tri­fied pub called The Hare near­by. For eat­ing, try the Kore­an cafe Hur­wen­de­ki, less than 5 min­utes walk from York Hall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *