Laura Marling @ Barfly, Camden
23rd March 2010.
It is March. Perpetual precipitation has literally rained on our British parade for at least a month. Inclement conditions aside, it has just been plain freezing of late. Rugging up is a prerequisite for leaving the house, and summertime garb listlessly sits at the back of the wardrobe, impatient for the day when it can be freed from its wintry prison. You get my drift. The weather has been shit. We are all yearning for some heat yes?
Well, heat was exactly what met the keen beans who turned out in droves to see Laura Marling play last week. Horrifically packed, the Barfly's antiquated (and quite frankly, inadequate) air-conditioning system had experienced a timely meltdown, and as a result the venue resembled a nasty, scummy, sweaty oven. An oven in a household that considers microwave meals and frozen chips to be the height of sophistication. An untouched, grime-ridden monstrosity. A genuine health hazard. So devastating and unbearable was the atmosphere, this little wimp was forced into the downstairs bar to consume litres of gin (a cooling aid you know), only returning to the pit of hell when Miss Marling took to the stage. I know I can be one for hyperbole, but I kid you not, kiddies. People were fainting left, right and centre and at one point, sandwiched between a rotund gent and a tall man's armpit, I really thought I might die.
Fortuitous, then, that Laura Marling proved to be just as brilliant as expected. Strategically secreted at the very back of the venue (shortest escape route should the heat have caused an onlooker to spontaneously combust), I spent the majority of the gig on tip toes, leaning precariously to my right, vying for some eye space. At one stage, I had a drink accidentally tipped over me (it was being passed over my head, I am no aggressor). I have never been so hot in my life, yet all became forgotten and forgiven as soon as the diminutive headliner opened her mouth.
With her trademark awkward charm, she quipped her way through an intense and delicately melancholy set, her spell-binding voice managing to silence the restless crowd. Material from new album I Speak Because I Can presents an assured and commanding artist, enhanced tonight by Laura's precision and mastery of her material. Gone is the jangly, tinkering teen-folk that originally bewitched her legions of fans and in its stead we were treated to the ruminations of an elegant and intelligent songwriter, weaving classical imagery with frank and brutally honest observation. Despite abruptly ending 'Failure' when realising she was starting to make up the lyrics (cracking "well, you get the gist"), this was a flawless performance. Utterly unfazed by the heat, the proximity of the crowd and the sheer adoration leaking from every pore in that room, Laura Marling cemented her position as folk-darling once more.