On a fresh and Autumnal evening, as September (and Summer pretty much) drew to a close, ex-Portico Quartet member and now solo singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey, was making his way on to the grand stage of The Lowry in Manchester’s lesser-known neighbour, Salford.
Supporting Laura Marling on her UK tour, Mulvey took to the stage casually, dressed in comfortable attire and with just a guitar and a duo of capos for company. For some, this would have been incredibly daunting, as The Lowry is one venue where the whole audience is focused on the stage. A glorious building and hall; every cough, murmur and scurry to find a ticketed seat could be heard. Yet he seemed comfortable and oblivious to the pressure that some would have felt.
Playing songs from his debut EP Fever To The Form, it becames clear rather quickly, that Mulvey is an extraordinary guitar player, twisting and turning melodies with great ease as his fingers flowed from string to string. His talent with the acoustic guitar brings comparisons to the likes of Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame, and when singing as well, hints of Willy Mason and Jose Gonzales come to mind. He is a very good songwriter too, though there are times when his songs do begin to sound a bit samey, and less distinctive and memorable as the set continued.
That’s not to say he hasn’t got some corkers, and new single Nitrous, with its take on Olive’s classic 90’s dance hit You’re Not Alone making an appearance, is one that stands out in particular. Moreover, final track Fever To The Form is already becoming a well known hit for Mulvey and brought his set to a wonderful end, rightfully receiving a pulsating round of applause. A good set all round from a man with buckets a talent, and a very bright future as a solo performer.
Laura Marling then followed as headliner, this time also choosing to play solo, so as to encapsulate the raw emotions and haunting beauty of her fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle. She took to the stage promptly and calmly, dressed in a ghostly white dress (which she later explained was bought the day before in Dublin, and the shop owner had asked if it was for a fancy dress party). There is an air of simple and timeless wonder surrounding Laura Marling and this comes fleeting through at almost all of her performances. And on this occasion, it seemed so, more than ever, as she began with a non-stop 15 minute performance of four songs, back to back. Take The Night Off, I Was An Eagle, You Know and Breathe all gorgeously strung together and teaming with intense emotions and masterful guitar playing, to form a stunning opening.
It goes without saying that Laura Marling is mature beyond her years, and something that she freely agrees on when it comes to her love for vintage clothing (hence the dress), influences and inspirations. Yet it is her songwriting that emphasises her wisdom, touching upon the usual subjects of love, death, etc, but with a poetic class that many can only dream of having. It is simply astounding that she is still only 23.
With an ever-growing catalogue of songs, it is probably rather tough when choosing a setlist for Marling. But on past experience, she tends to go with her instinct and play the songs she enjoys to play the most. Luckily, this means jumping from album to album (though of course there is emphasis on Once I Was An Eagle on this occasion). Performances of Master Hunter and Sophia from 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know, as well as Rambling Man from 2010’s I Speak Because I Can and half of debut-album hit Ghosts, (she gets cramp, stops, slips up and kind of just gives up, stating ‘Argh, you know how it goes!’) are all highlights.
As usual, her stage presence was striking yet modest, matched with her usual dry wit. As in past performances, she was forced to tune her guitar after almost ever song, leading to stories of her parents reading the reviews, quotes from her favourite poetry and stories of her favourite poets. A classy evening, ending with a classy finish as she reminded people that she doesn’t do encores, so if they were expecting one, ‘just pretend that last song I played was the final song!’. She then proceeded into the short and smart Where Can I Go? to bring the evening to a triumphant end.