Given how crude comparisons can be, it's somewhat of a relief, yet surprising that parallels haven't been drawn between Laura Marling and Bob Dylan on a more regular basis. Perhaps it's a matter of gender; whilst every white boy with a guitar seems to be lauded as “the next Dylan”, Marling has been allowed to quietly plow her own furrow, but there are striking similarities in their career trajectories. Releasing her first album as a 17-year-old, Marling has consistently displayed a remarkable songwriting ability at a prolific rate and with new album 'Short Movie', she's chosen to plug in the electric guitar, but tonight at the Kentish Town Forum there are no cries of “Judas”.
Opening with 'False Hope', there's an urgency and tense energy about Marling which may not have been associated with her music and performances in the past. Elsewhere, 'Devil's Spoke' is stripped of its drama in favour of an infectious, bluesy riff which demonstrates that there's much more to Marling than a way with words; for those who were still in doubt, she's a quite phenomenal guitar player.
Tonight sees a rare outing for a host of songs from her debut album, much to the delight of the effervescent audience. Whilst Marling is apologetic for the youthful anger of her lyrics, 'My Manic & I' and 'Ghosts' are both received rapturously, as is a delightful cover of Dolly Parton's 'Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?'. Whilst these songs are a wonderful blast of nostalgia, they serve as a reminder of how Marling continues to grow with each record. With her band side of stage, she alone delivers a frankly breathtaking rendition of 'Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)', proving just what a special talent she is. Whilst there's a vibrancy to much of tonight's show, this hushed and delicate moment of tenderness justifies the plaudits Marling has received throughout her career thus far.
With her band back on stage, a thunderous 'Alpha Shallows' provides the most dramatic moment of the evening, whilst a rousing and euphoric 'Sophia' closes proceedings, with its slow build spiraling into a glorious anthem worthy of arenas, although you get the impression stages of this size is where Marling is happy to stay. Whilst she may be comfortable in these surroundings, the way in which older songs like these have developed on stage is yet another sign of her continued growth, which on the evidence of tonight looks set to continue apace.
It's not a simple matter of just ditching acoustic for electric and hoping things change dramatically, Marling is pushing herself forward into new territories at an extraordinary pace. Given the reaction tonight, her audience is sure to follow her next move, wherever it happens to take her. Exactly what happens next will be fascinating.
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