Saw Laura Marling at the beautiful Hamer Hall yesterday – she performed as part of the Melbourne Festival. Monday night is a weird night for a concert, but then a break in the routine is always nice.
I arrived early and lingered around for a while, observing the arty/hipsterish crowd and trying not to have a second helping of the hideously overpriced ice cream. The supporting act, D.D Dumbo, was short and sweet, surprisingly short in fact – I don’t think he was onstage for longer than half an hour. It was just one guy, armed with a bunch of pedals, where he’d record a sample of a drum beat or guitar and then let it loop over and over and gradually build a song up. This layering technique is always fun to watch live, and the music was pretty good, I even recognised one of the tracks since they played it quite a bit on Triple J. The crowd chat was minimal and he didn’t even introduce himself, which obviously bothered a guy in the audience who cried out, “what’s your name??” before the very last song. Strangely enough, he introduced himself under his real name, Oliver.
I’ve seen Laura couple of times before, once at the Laneway Festival where she was such a shy bunny her crew had to talk her into walking onstage. She was much more relaxed and comfortable this time around, making self-deprecating banter in between the songs and being charmingly British. As a performer, she’s immediately enchanting; her voice has got the intimacy of a storyteller and feels incredibly mature, womanly and lived-in for someone who’s only twenty-five years old. They kicked off the night in a sombre manner with the opening track from Once I Was an Eagle – Laura joked later that they like to get the heavy stuff out of the way early on, with a 20-minute song and three songs in a minor key, and fair enough, the rest of the show had a more upbeat vibe.
This was billed as a concert in support of her latest album, which I missed out on since I’m not buying music magazines on a regular basis anymore, but I think I’ve only heard two or three songs I didn’t know and they played something from every album. They also did an excellent cover of a Dolly Parton song, and another cover whose name I missed, but it was good too. At one point she messed up the lyrics to her best-known song, but the crowd thought it was adorable and cheered her on. It’s always nice to be at a concert where the artist is so warmly welcomed.