Live Review: Laura Marling with Pete Roe and Smoke Fairies at Iota, Arlington, VA – 16 May 2010

By on Wednesday, 19th May 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Good folk singer/songwriters show that they can play their instrument well along with singing to tell a compelling story. Iota is ‘the’ place for country / folk-type acts to play in the D.C. area (for example, the venue played host to Fanfarlo last December). So for Laura Marling‘s first appearance in the Washington DC area, what better place to see her than at the smallish club in the Clarendon neighbourhood of Arlington, Virginia?

Pete Roe, ‘discovered’ by London independent record label Communion probably as he was playing piano for Marling live in concert, started the evening off right with a short but enjoyable set of well-crafted folk songs. If you want to see true talent, listen to a singer/songwriter stand in front of a microphone with nothing but his voice and guitar. In the case of Roe, the warm timbre of his voice perfectly complemented his dexterity on acoustic guitar. Just gorgeous. His EP entitled ‘The Merry-Go-Round’ is set to be released on 07 June.

The second act to play, Smoke Fairies, seemed to be a mismatch for Pete Roe and Laura Marling. They’re a four-piece band fronted by two very fetching women, Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire, singing amazing harmonies. I say they were a mismatch because their songs generally are harder than what is normally considered ‘folk’ and at times even skirt the line for rhythm and blues, as in the song ‘Sunshine’. Blamire in particular shone with her mastery of the guitar, whether she was picking notes or playing slide guitar, making me wonder if she’s studied Jimmy Page’s style. For example, see their ‘River Song’, sounding like Led Zeppelin’s softer numbers, like ‘The Battle of Evermore’ or ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’.

People had been milling about, getting drinks from the bar, and quietly chatting during the first two acts. But when it came time for Laura Marling, everyone stayed put where they were as if children at school assembly. Marling came onstage, putting on one of several acoustic guitars, and looked over the crowd nervously. I was surprised to see that she was back to blonde hair, as all the promos she’s done for her current album ‘I Speak Because I Can’ (reviewed on TGTF here) she is a brunette. Come to think of it, this change in hair colour actually made her more human and less massive folk star, because no longer was she this mysterious woman framed by long brown hair – she’d turned into the girl next door, looking as innocent as a priest’s daughter.

I’ve never been a huge fan of her work but I was taken by the song ‘Rambling Man’ that seems to be a mainstay on 6music as of late. But I can say for certain that as soon as Marling opened her mouth I was bewitched by this woman. She stood in front of us, at first looking anxious, playing her guitar and singing about life and love effortlessly and brilliantly. She became visibly more comfortable as the night wore on, spurred on by the clapping, whistling and shouts of “I love you!” coming from the appreciative crowd. It seems to me that nearly every man I know in England is in love with her, and I can see why. She isn’t even of legal drinking age in America yet, but she sings with wisdom as if she has lived several lifetimes.

The title track of her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’, is a simple, sweet, yet quite astute look on life, and newer tracks ‘Devil’s Spoke’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ are hauntingly beautiful. The highlight of the night for me was ‘Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)’, which Marling prefaced asking if anyone had been to England before (many people in the audience whooped delightedly to affirm this) and explained it was a song that she sings because she is homesick for England. I nearly wept. Not just because I miss England as well but because the song is just a gorgeous piece of music and live, it completely blew me away.


After the cut: more photos and Laura Marling set list.

Pete Roe Photos:

Smoke Fairies Photos:

Laura Marling Photos:

Laura Marling Set List:
Devil’s Spoke
Hope in the Air
Rambling Man
Ghosts
Blackberry Stone
Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young cover)
Rest in My Bed of Bones (new song)
Night Terror
New song
Blues Run the Game (Jackson C. Frank cover)
Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)
What He Wrote
Alpha Shallows
Alas I Cannot Swim
I Speak Because I Can

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3 Responses

4:45 pm
19th May 2010

Just a slight correction: Katherine Blamire is the one who plays the slide guitar in Smoke Fairies.

[…] before and did not even known it: he had toured as a band member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. Talk about a small world.) During my Christmas holiday when I spent too many hours working on the […]

[…] myself and that he had actually been to DC 3 years ago as a member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. I think they gained a whole load of new fans at the Communion show the night before, and the mere […]

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