Disclaimer: contains gushing, fawning and far too many adjectives.
The Leisure Society, the ‘special guests’ of the night, seemed to enjoy performing the songs, despite admitting that they were daunted by the sizeable arena. “I’m terrified” confessed Nick, the lead singer.
Perky, cheerful songs with occasionally mournful lyrics provided a beautiful introduction to the concert; the four-piece (Nick on guitar, Christian on banjo and keyboard, Helen on flute and Mike on violin) though apparently a few members down. This provided a more lighthearted tone, as with no bassline or drums, the Leisure Society uplifted the audience and provided some gentle, fun music to get us all in the mood for Miss Marling.
After a half hour set from TLS, we were treated to a half hour interval of constant excitement and expectation with a full Cathedral’s worth of people sitting up at the end of every song of the interlude music. Once thirty minutes had passed Laura Marling and her band walked out onto the ‘stage’, the space left for them in front of hundreds of people filling the Western side of the longest nave in Europe.
Seated about twenty five rows of seats back, we were lucky enough to have a good view of Marling and her band, as the Cathedral’s chairs are wide, there were gaps between people which we could peer through.
Starting her set with ‘I Was Just a Card’, Marling’s timid voice burst into life, filling the whole Cathedral with a beguiling song of haunting beauty. With the diminuendo of the song and raucous clapping, a tiny voice welcomed us with a gentle “hello”.
Songs followed, each more powerful, almost angrier than the one before; her voice building, her band creating a cacophony of sound: guitar, drums, banjo, piano, cello and double bass all adding their opinion to the rolling reverberation.
Following the rousing first part, the musicians departed, leaving Marling alone on stage with her guitar for company. With this solitude her vocals could be appreciated for their more tender side; still powerful, visceral and wise but gentler, mellow and emotive.
Once our heartstrings had been sufficiently tugged, our ears caressed and brains hugged, the band returned to the stage with Laura stating “this is usually where I’d introduce the band, but we’re all better at music than chat”.
The final few tunes provided us with heel tapping, throbbing drums, evocative strings and more gorgeous vocals building to the announcement “we’re not cool enough to do encores, so if you wanted an encore this is the last song, if you didn’t this is the second to last.”
Finishing fantastically with ‘All My Rage’, they all departed the stage leaving us with a sense of awe: it had been two hours of beautiful architecture, beautiful voices and one beautiful woman (the girls agree).