Review: Laura Marling – Manchester Apollo

A seventh time seeing Laura Marling perform and I’m still very much in awe of the 22 year-old from Hampshire. Having first seen her play in a dingy little room in Aberdeen four years ago, it’s incredible to see her taking on giants such as Manchester Apollo and delivering, as always, with excellence.

Tonight’s first support came from the ever-wonderful Pete Roe, a man that can be banked on every time to provide a fantastic set filled with heart-warming folk. And following him was Timber Timbre, represented by the solo presence of Taylor Kirk and his guitar. Kirk has a voice like no other, a voice that can raise the roof when he wants to, but can be hushed and whispered at any given moment as well. Playing songs from his new album Creep On Creepin’ On, Timber Timbre was a superb choice of support by Marling, a choice that was made personally by her, recognising the intensity of the gig as a whole.

In a time where artists and performers seem to aimlessly hop from one stage to another in a ridiculously small amount of time, Laura has taken her time to reach the heights of a large venue tour such as this. And in all honesty, that has been a good thing. Personally, I was somewhat dubious about Miss Marling playing in a 3000-person arena, as I have always seen her as an intimate, small room kind of act. However, despite the large capacity and all that comes with it, Laura has a rare quality that makes her gigs still seem like a private, special moment wherever she plays; silencing the crowd and even reducing them to quivering wrecks, after playing the likes of Night After Night – one of the most haunting and painfully beautiful songs of our time.

The setlist was very much the same as her previous Cathedral tour, with few changes to her band, slightly daft fact-orientated stage banter and a gig plan of playing a gloriously stunning solo set mid-evening, followed by a pumping finale that includes Rambling Man and an all-time favourite, My Friends. Yet it was exactly what people wanted. Unlike other acts (we’re looking at you, Radiohead), she knows that people want to hear tracks from all her records, and Laura always chooses the pick of the bunch, making each performance more like a ‘Greatest Hits’ set. Ranging from Sophia and Salinas from the recently-released A Creature I Don’t Know, to Blackberry Stone and Goodbye England from I Speak Because I Can, to Failure and Ghosts from Alas I Cannot Swim, as well as the now not so ‘new’ song Pray For Me, Marling ensures that nobody leaves the room feeling like she could have done more, (maybe apart from one idiot who shouted ‘Get the crowd going Laura!’, to which she wonderfully replied, ‘I think you’re at the wrong gig mate!’)

Granted, there was nothing new to this gig apart from a change of venue and some seats, but it really didn’t matter. It was just yet another breathtaking performance, from an artist who really understands the gig experience and delivers with excellence every time, without fail….here’s to another fifty years of the same thing!