Sunday, 23 August 2009

Review | Laura Marling & Friends...

Little Miss B, 23 August 2009...

Tues 11th August, Royal Festival Hall.

This was always going to be a curious evening. I purchased these tickets (yes, money changed hands) as giftage for my sister’s birthday, and whilst very much looking forward to seeing Miss Marling at Royal Festival Hall, I had no idea what to expect. First of all, going to a show and sitting down: I think the last time I did this I was aged six and being dragged to see Wet Wet Wet by my aunt and mother (both of whom have Floyd, Sabbath and Zeppelin in their music collections – shame on you and your Marti Pellow lust). Secondly, just how was tiny, fragile, elfin Laura going to fare playing such a huge venue? Lastly, and perhaps most pertinently, just who were these ‘friends’ and what would they all be doing? Having a chat and a beer? A rant about boys and a bitch about work?

Turns out, this was going to be a bit of a hippy love-in (fortuitous that I was accompanied by hippy mother and hippy sister). Laura would introduce each act on-stage for one song, interspersing these appearances with her own, predominantly new, material. I’m not going to pretend I love the idea of hippy love-in: this is largely an anathema to how I live my humourless Nazi lifestyle. Dry like a piece of old toast, that’s me. However…. This really was something special. In fact, I would be tempted to use the word incredible, had I not been forced to spend the entire second half dodging the heads of the amorous couple, gnawing at each other’s faces, sat directly in front of me. Time and a place, people (for goodness sake, I was sitting next to someone’s Dad: was awful, like flicking channels and accidentally coming across graphic love scene when watching TV with your Nan at Christmas).

Photo by crazybobbles. See more on flickr.

Of course, it goes without saying that Little Miss Marling was the star of the show, and not just because the evening was named in her favour. I refuse to say she seems to possess a newfound maturity as so many journalists insist on mentioning, because let’s be honest: she’s always been a wise head on young shoulders, yet her new material definitely showcases a more melancholic side to her song writing; a darker tone that really shone through in this cavernous venue (seeing her miniature porcelain frame on that vast stage, surrounded by oversized sofa’s, a million mic stands and a veritable smorgasbord of instrumentation, was haunting to say the least). In particular, new tracks Mama How Far I’ve Come and I Speak Because I Can were beautiful, whilst old favourites Ghosts and Alas, I Cannot Swim even managed to draw some life out of a rather staid and reserved audience.

‘Friends’ Alessi’s Ark, Brighton-based The Wilkommen Collective, Mumford and Sons, and Johnny Flynn, amongst others, were engaging. Yet whilst none of the other acts were, as Telegraph journo Jack Arnhold states ‘forgettable’, they did largely pale in comparison to Peggy Sue. Having experienced guitar troubles during their performance of The Sea The Sea, the threesome were invited back on-stage to play the song again as part of the encore. I’ve been a fan of these guys in the past, so I was thrilled to see them live and even with technical glitches, crikey moses, it was worth it. Heartbreaking vocals, incredible harmonies, beautiful song writing. Admittedly I do want to crawl into Katy Klaw’s throat and steal her voice whilst she’s not looking, but obsessive jealousy aside, Peggy Sue were phenomenal.

As much as I am reluctant to admit I enjoyed this hippy folk-fest, what with all the hand-holding and mutual admiration, I am forced to acknowledge that this was a rather lovely experience. If you ever have to opportunity to see any of these artists, go. If it could touch even the hardest of stone-cold hearts, imagine what it could to a normal human being….

Peggy Sue are due to play Brixton Academy on 3rd Oct. and Union Chapel on 4th Oct. Visit Myspace for more details.

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