Laura Marling: 4.May.2010 – Chicago

As if singing to the heavens, Laura Marling gazed steadily upward like a marvelous folk angel. She seemed to be channeling everyone from Joni Mitchell to Carole King as she strummed her guitar. The most delicate chords were not wasted as her audience stood in awe of her quiet grace. Though she only played for 45 minutes, it was an utterly memorable sort of set.

In some ways, Marling is subtle and understated. Though she did have a backing band of keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums, Marling clearly didn’t need it, as evidenced by the half set she played alone, and without anyone missing the accompaniment. Her chord progressions are haunted, dreamy evolutions that are striking in the way they resonate in your brain long afterwards. Not only did she play guitar but she had a way of whistling that made one’s hair stand on end in the best of ways, as if there was no other person in the world but her.

Marling spoke a little between songs in a way that was nearly as enchanting as her singing. England’s indie darling spoke about how her mother thought that she had written Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” before she proceeded to cover it, which was both funny and sweet. Before a new song, she explained how she thought it would be a great track in a film but when she asked the audience in LA for film suggestions, most of the audience shouted, “Twilight!” to her dismay.

It’s astounding that someone so young could be so adept at playing. Marling’s talent is quite awe inspiring and with just two albums so far, one hopes that she has a long and prosperous career ahead of her. Though Marling did play some songs from her first release, 2007’s Alas, I Cannot Swim, most notably “Ghosts,” “My Manic and I,” and “Night Terror,” she concentrated heavily on her latest release, I Speak Because I Can. Highlights included: “Devil’s Spoke,” “Hope in the Air,” “Rambling Man,” and “Goodbye England.”