As Live Editor for GIITTV I have been some what redundant over the past three months, but finally I have something to do. There’s an official gig, tickets and all, in a venue that’s not someone’s home.
We have plush seats for tonights lockdown entertainment. You show your ticket at the door (get the link at 19.45) and sit down with your seafood paella and a glass of excellent dry white wine and then Laura Marling appears before you at your table.
The journey to get to the venue tonight was a smooth transition from frontroom sofa to dining room table via kitchen.
In the wake of Covid 19 wreaking havoc across the music industry and live schedules, Laura Marling broke the curve by doing the opposite of pushing back the release of her seventh album, Song for our Daughter, and brought it forward to April from its original August berth.
Whilst many bands and artists have been doing lockdown bedroom, kitchen, sofa, back garden sessions, again Laura has taken a side step away from the pack and announced an official gig at Union Chapel in Islington, tickets on sale for a price and you get an exclusive stream.
The relaxing of rules surrounding what can and can’t be done when interacting with people may have upped the ante with production of this concert or it could have been the plan all along but there is quite a team behind this one woman show. The credits at the end display a raft of names that made it all possible, and it certainly paid dividends.
The sound, even out of a laptops tinny speaker is exemplary, and the multi camera angles allowing a 360 view of the beautiful Union Chapel, stained glass, high balconies, and sun streaming through high windows creates an ethereal atmosphere as light pours over Laura. Whilst this is obviously not the same as being at the venue, the camera allows the crowd to see the her glance at them or even hold their gaze for more than a moment. She does sing in to the rafters as she normally does but she does allow herself to let her guard down, something she has probably grown to do with her guitar lessons, and look at all those staring back through the binary ether.
Advantages to this new breed of live experience. No queues for the toilets, no one is talking through the song, although she was rudely interrupted by one of our cats trying to join in with harmonies. The queue for the bar was non-existent and the selection of drinks was excellent.
She opens with ‘The Suite‘ otherwise known as the four song medley that begins her fourth album Once I Was An Eagle, consisting of ‘Take The Night Off’, ‘I Was An Eagle’, ‘You Know’ and ‘Breathe’.
Naturally she leans heavily on her new record, so it’s fortunate that it is destined to be regarded as possibly the 2020 Lockdown classic album. Few artists have owned the situation we have all found ourselves quite like Laura has. She was quick off the mark by beginning guitar tutorials twice a week, bringing a regular, intimate experience that very few have been able to match. She surprises the world with the LP months early and now breaks the mould by staging the first proper gig of this era, in a real venue and making an event out of an empty room.
‘Fortune’ is exquisite and heart-breaking, almost as much as ‘End of the Affair‘ but ‘Goodbye, England‘ is given an added weight and poignancy by the state of the country. The disease arrived and the sun came out and now the white cover of winter seems like another time, a Narnia like world that didn’t require distance or face covers or quarantine in your home for months on end.
The solitary offering from her debut record, Alas, I Cannot Swim, is the stunning ‘Tap at my Window‘ that holds a personal significance and is seldom given a live outing so is particularly welcome.
Reportedly two thousand people tuned in and it is hard to imagine anyone leaving having not felt uplifted, emotionally improved and even feeling they’d been in the room with her all along.
Photo by Joel Ryan