Live: Laura Marling @ St Pancras Old Church, 23rd Nov

Pete Roe is the kind of support act every singer must dream of. He does the sound, he drives the van, he manges the tour and then he gets on stage and performs a string of such beautiful songs you don’t want him to stop… except you do because you want to see the headliner. He’s supported Laura many times before and songs like Devil’s Dancefloor are as familiar as some of her own tracks. Listen out for some new ones too though… the one about the horse on the merry-go-round who fell in love with a horse two in front of it is a hit. Funny lyrics to beautiful music.

Laura Marling walked on stage unnoticed at St Pancras Old Church on Monday night. There was a hush of silence as the crowd spotted an unfamiliar figure reaching out for the guitar and walking towards centre stage. Something wasn’t quite right.

“I have some explaining to do,” she said, leaning into the mic and waving her hand over her head. “About the colour of my hair,” she added and we all let out an awkward laugh. Laura Marling and her distinguished white/blonde hair were gone and instead a sophisticated brunette stood in her place. Had she not very swiftly opened her mouth to sing then the mutterings of “is that really her?” would have continued but the one thing unmistakable about Laura Marling is her voice.

Stood at the altar in the oldest Church in London with her (three) guitar(s) and just a very small crowd watching, she appeared totally at ease, performing songs from her new album due out in March as well as a few from Alas I Cannot Swim. We were even treated to a song she described as being“so new it isn’t even on the new album, it’s just me being impatient”. As she launched into it Laura stepped up to her sophisticated appearance with a song about loving just one person for the rest of her life and just wanting a home to live in while holding ‘his’ hand until the end. As she played a ring sparkled on her engagement finger leaving the more curious of us to question whether she’s already found the man she’s singing about.

Other highlights were a live performance of Laura’s Christmas single ‘Goodbye England’ which she claimed she was releasing because she wants “the number one on Woman’s Hour”, Blackberry Stone, Ramblin’ Man and a cover of the Neil Young song The Needle And The Damage Done.

Laura Marling has something very rare. She can talk and play to a sold out crowd at the Royal Festival Hall and then she can give the same breathtaking, spine tingling performance to 150 people sitting on church pews hanging on her every word. Regardless of the numbers watching the intensity is the same when she plays and the chat is just as awkward and endearing between songs.

“So my hair story,” she said, pausing for the laughter to subside, before going on to explain how she’d bought what she thought was hair dye while playing abroad recently, but found out rather too late it was bleach. Having been told she was lucky she still had any hair, the following two gigs she played had been performed in various different shades of hair colour from green to pink. Tonight, she informed us, was a big improvement.

Ending on Alas I Cannot Swim (without the encore as always) Laura’s dedicated fans erupted into applause, leaving the venue eagerly anticipating the new album. As I wandered towards the door a small group stood hugging.

“Well done darling,” a voice said as I approached them. “You were very funny.”

“Thanks mum,” Laura replied, calmly.

Something about the exchange left me walking towards the tube humming Oh Mamma How Far I’ve Come…

Words: Tessa Bickers
Photo: Gemma Kirby

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