I was super lucky a few months ago to come across the announcement that Laura Marling (probably my second favourite songwriter right now... close behind Ryan Adams) was making a stop at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Last year I pegged her second solo record, I Speak Because I Can, as my number one choice for best album of 2010. Jessica bought tickets to the show and we waiting patiently for my birthday to roll around.
So 22 September 2011 came, I turned 27 years old, and we made our way to Lincoln Hall to see quite possibly the best show I've ever been to.
We had never been to Lincoln Hall before. The venue itself is kind of small, consisting of a smallish bar out front, a balcony with a second bar, and the main auditorium holds about 500 people total, but doesn't seem that large. Biggest con? Beer was $6. Kind of ridiculous, especially when considering they don't serve full pints. Otherwise, I was really impressed with the place.
Lincoln Hall's front of house engineers know what they're doing. Laura and Alessi's Ark (the opener) both sounded phenomenal, better than any show I've seen at any venue in St Louis. Vocals were dead-on, especially for the performers' similar stylings; the drum kit sounded fantastic with clear snares and thumping, but tight, kick; the double bass, guitars, cello, and horns sounded great too. As an engineer myself, I'm usually really critical about audio quality at a show, but these guys deserve some serious respect for making that room sound so good.
Alessi's Ark opened, fronted by Alessi Laurent-Marke. She was totally endearing and seemed nervous. But it was enjoyable as she could laugh at herself even when she messed up a song. I think normally a crowd would be upset or put off by the performer messing up, but ... and maybe this is just the way with the folk shows ... we didn't mind her stops at all.
Man was she good. Laura Marling's voice was dead-on the entire show and totally stands up live. She is most definitely not just a studio artist. Her vocals are big and engulfing, filling the entire room and shaking your body and emotions as she flows through her dynamic songs. The band accompanying here was a talented group of musicians and set the perfect stage for her performance.
She admitted right off that stage banter wasn't her forté, but she kept up with the crowd, making jokes, telling facts, and responding to audience comments. Again, we found it endearing, especially when we all couldn't stop laughing during the opening of Sophia and she had to stop a couple of times.
Laura also played a brand new song (first time ever) that was amazing. I have no idea what it's call but it was great. She covered a Neil Young tune as well.
All in all, I'd go see her perform again in a heartbeat. Her personality and talent combine to make a winning live package for those of us who enjoy going to shows for the sake of great music. Laura Marling definitely proved to me why she should be at the top of list of today's songwriters.