International Writers Magazine: Music
Aby Davis Review
Remember, remember the 5th of November? This year, my rain and
firework splattered night was spent inside the Wedgewood rooms,
Portsmouth. Amidst the company of young girls with un-straightened
hair and charity shop scarves, and some mums wearing embroidered
jeans I anticipated excellent live music from 18 year old new folk-ist,
The Wedgewood rooms
are arguably Portsmouths top spot for live music and alternative
club nights, small but perfectly formed and with the space for a couple
of hundred locals. Marling, after touring with the likes of London rapper,
Jamie T, was a member of Noah and the Whale and her velvety vocals
can be heard on their summer hit, 5 Years Time.
Having caught her briefly at last years tiny Field Day Festival
in London and being a massive fan of Alas I cannot Swim, her
beautifully crafted album of this year, I was in no doubt of her skill
of a live performer, and the evening did not disappoint.
Music does funny things to those who love it, and not being simply a
passive fan of the stuff, it was difficult to contain my excitement
when the first support artist hit the stage. Marlings own keyboardist,
Pete Roe was in front of me hiding behind a beard and a guitar, a granddad
hat shading his eyes from the bright lights.
Laura asked me to play a few first, he tells us sheepishly,
and I want to hit the people around me who chat happily through his
The second act is equally lovely and just as humble.
Thanks for having me, Im J.J, he blinks at someone
beyond our heads, can you turn the microphone up a little bit?
Launching into his repertoire, his lyrics honest and his voice on the
beautiful side of close to breaking, his whole act says Ok, Im
not Laura but maybe you might like me anyway.
Marlings eventual arrival on stage is without ceremony or circumstance.
Shes just there behind a microphone tuning her guitar, her short
blonde boy-cut and bare face beautiful in harsh lighting that doesnt
suit her .She plays the first two songs alone, like her acts before
her,her voice sounding like a thousand years of stories hummed by your
best friend. Brief glimpses of unreleased power hint at her ability
to sing like an old fashioned diva, but her style is far subtler and
closer to home. Starting with Shine, a melancholy tune which
meets the expectant hush suitably, her voice sings of years beyond her
age, yet as the band assemble and she introduces them all as my
lads, I want to follow them out into a different, less rainy day
and watch them play their songs in a meadow at sunset. They are young
and they are fun, one of them plays a fiddle whilst another has a glittery
drum kit. My personal favourite, Ghosts riles up the little bits
in your body that believe you are made of melody and limbs are obsolete
but for dancing. Ghosts, in which the lover describes his previous
loves as the ghosts that broke my heart before I met you
offers exactly the kind of perceptive life story you learn to love about
Marling. Backed perfectly by four male harmonies and old fashioned instrumental
rhythm, there is none of the miserable pretension of popular indie artists,
nor any of the love me love me love me! behaviour of C-
list pop stars.
"How are you?" she asks us between songs. We reply in an affirmative
group murmur, very well thank you how about you? She smiles wryly at
our new best friendship.
A room full of strangers, casual friends now because of her shared secrets.
"Im rubbish at stage banter, its best for everyone if I just
stay quiet, or it gets awkward." She shrugs apologetically.
Gentle laughter and heart skipping melodies shape the way this gig is
going. A few hecklers want New Romantic, a song which didnt
quite make the album; Marling is too busy tuning her guitar to notice.
Released single Cross Your Fingers melts perfectly into Crawled
out Of The Sea (interlude). Effortless delivery and an obvious rapport
with her band can at times direct the listener away from the painful
truths and self doubt of her most personal songs, My Manic and
I follows a relationship, I cant control you, I dont
know you well, these are the reasons I think that youre ill,
whilst songs like Your Only Doll (Dora) mask insecurity with
the beauty of gentle chords and double bass. My fellow gig goers are
quite enraptured with her,
"We love you Laura!" one bloke in the crowd shouts, "Youre
Amazing to think this fairy girl is only 18, songs from an old heart
shared with everyone whos ever had feelings, her songs are mature
and well structured throughout, but the last song which she with some
embarrassment, informs us is her encore, (were gonna stay
here because if we go off well just be standing right there waiting
to see if you like us, and thats just embarrassing for everyone...)
provides an uplifting climax. Alas I cannot Swim, the secret,
title track of her album tells a fairy story about a house across
the river and a garden with such beauty the flowers seem to grin,
but alas, she cannot swim. It starts with the familiar strum of Marlings
right hand, when suddenly the rest of her lads pitch in
with manly vocals and enthusiastic drumming, keyboarding and furious
fiddle-ing. Far more exuberant than the album version, this is a brilliant
song to end the gig on.
There is gold across the river but I dont want none, gold
is fickle, gold is fleeting, gold is fun. Saying work more, earn more,
live more...have more fun. A rousing repeated line, tapped out
by able feet and fingers, earning this 5th of November a definite fixed
memory...away from the spitting fireworks and the dead bloke on the
Davis November 2008
The Laura marling Link:
The world that Ness has created is incredibly imaginative and full
of subtext to disturb and provoke challenging young minds
Aby is in her Senior year on the Creative Writing Degree at the University
of Portsmouth and helps run the Writers Open Mic Night and is one of
last years editors of Borderlines Vol 2- The Literary Anthology
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