Emerging into an anxious silence, a half scruffy, half clean-cut gentleman takes a step onto a small stage. Taking one step more, he doesn’t appear to be sure, what of, is unknown, he is perhaps unconfident. He is now centre stage, reaching to the floor and clutching what appears to be a bell, a large bell. A puzzled audience gazes, extending the silence a moment more until a chime echoes throughout a magnificent room, a cathedral. The man places the bell gently back to the floor, and shuffles back off in the same direction. Everyone is hesitant, do we applaud, do we not? But it is deemed too late when a few more impartial characters grace the stage. They, however, are met with a grand applause. Watching intimately as the characters approach their instruments, each spectator misses a few blinks as Laura Marling takes her own graceful steps upon the stage.
This is the first show of the ‘When the bell tolls’ tour (it makes more sense now) in the small city of Exeter. Exclusive to cathedrals, this tour is an obvious step for Marling as she gazes at her surroundings. The audience are mirroring her, absorbing the incredible detail and beauty of the stone walls and ceiling.
Marling isn’t lingering though. Eyes watering, her voice projects into the depths of the cathedral. Her voice is quiet, yet concerned. Her voice is calm, yet violent.
Obviously Marling has had constant success, but only recently has she really hit the B.I.G T.I.M.E. And that means big time. Rising from the new folk scene, in…… she has overlapped her peers by the mile, being the only artist to be ever-evolving and ever-growing able to witness.
And witnessing here, as she begins with ‘The Muse’ from the new record, it is clear Marling’s confidence has risen since her beginning, and throughout the three months it took to write ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’. Now, three months is a mouse-like length of time to write a whole album, and what she has produced is immaculate even for something that could have prevailed her life for years. You can just tell there is no over-thinking, there are no wholly taintless harmonies. But this is what Laura has become. She has grown into a character who is sure in herself to decide what she wants to write now.
She glides through the first few half an hour of the set, covering songs new and old. ‘Ghosts’ brings an element of the new, quirky Laura and ‘Failure’ exudes intimacy and meaning. The first spoken utterance she makes into the microphone states in a soft whisper ‘you are all so kind to be so quiet’. Mid-laugh she is abandoned on the stage. Luckily this is planned, we finally have a moment alone. Just the audience and her. She makes light of her lack of ‘talking skills’ and proceeds on with a new haunting track. The unfinished touches of this unknown is brilliant and pure. It is clear Marling needs nothing other than her voice and guitar to exhibit her flawlessness. And that is what she is to anybody, flawless.