After more than four years since her last tour, Laura Marling returned to Manchester Albert Hall in support of her Mercury and Grammy nominated album Songs For Our Daughter.
The church like Manchester Albert Hall provided the most suitable backdrop for the angelic presence of the storytelling songwriter. Huddled together in a horseshoe around the stage, the audience were rapt to attention throughout.
Drawing the audience in with fan favourite ‘I Was An Eagle’, Laura set the tone early on for a night of meandering storytelling which sacrificed some of the more popular hits such as ‘Rambling Man’ and her breakthrough single ‘Ghosts’.
Without the support of a band, every moment of silence accentuated the trance like state her engaging storytelling and enchanting vocals had put her audience under from the beginning.
Playing solo invited the audience to listen more deeply to her lyricism, the end of each song greeted by rapturous applause and immediately followed by dead silence as we waited intently for the next song to commence.
Laura’s stripped back performance also exposed the purity of her voice and how masterfully she uses it as well as the complexity of some of her guitar playing which often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
Despite Laura’s angelic presence on stage the night wasn’t without its hiccups. Recovering from a back spasm she had suffered via sneezing the day before, she comically told the audience her life had changed for ever since that day. Stage hands assisted her guitar changes and a wooden stool propped up her leg throughout the set.
There were also a few moments when her guitar fingering faltered and at the end of the emotionally charged song, ‘Wildfire’, Marling nonchalantly confirmed to some confused audience members: “I think I missed out a verse.”
In many ways, these moments, although not ideal, reminded us all that Laura Marling is after all human like the rest of us. The awe that Marling impresses upon anyone that listens to her can be an intensely emotional experience, but between songs, her wry humour nicely broke up the set into a wholesome stories-round-the-fire type of evening.
When a retro Nokia style ringtone rang at perhaps the most inappropriate time during an intimate song of the set she wittily remarked: “I think that’s the 90s calling.”
The audience grew more vocal between songs as the night progressed, whooping and shouting “We love you Laura.” As the night drew to a close a request from the audience was answered in the form of the soulful track ‘Daisy’ – a personal highlight of the concert and welcome change of pace.
Laura signed off with a cosy, sentimental ode to a loved one in the form of ‘For You’, the closing track from her latest album Song For Our Daughter. The hopeful song was a perfect choice to send us home on, inviting us to sway together and put our arms around our friends shoulders.