Laura Marling at the Cedar, 12/01/11

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Laura Marling
December 1, 2011
Cedar Cultural Center


The last time Laura Marling performed in Minneapolis was in 2008, when she was only 18 years old. She played for about 25 of us at the 400 Bar as the opening act for Johnny Flynn, with a then unknown Mumford & Sons serving as her backing band (as well as being the first band on the bill that night). My how things change. With two more excellent albums and a few more years of touring experience under her belt, Marling once again returned to the West Bank and delivered a stirring hour-long solo set to a sold-out crowd at the Cedar on the first night of her brief U.S. tour.

Marling touched on that prior performance as soon as she took the stage, mentioning that, "The last time I was in Minneapolis, I played two doors down from here." But this time she was rightfully performing for a packed house, and proceeded to charm all of us with her poignant songs and dry, self-deprecating British humour. After a playful version of "I Was Just A Card" opened the night, Marling took a moment to demurely address the audience: "I'd like to get a few things straight before we begin. Stage banter has never been my forte, and to prevent me from saying something completely awkward, I tend to avoid tuning as much as possible. So I end up playing a lot of songs from one album at a time." With albums as strong and striking as hers, that wasn't going to be a problem for any of us.

A wonderful version of "The Muse" really got the show going, with Marling's stellar, understated guitar work guiding the song along with her rich vocals. Before a gorgeous version of "Sophia," Marling good-naturedly admitted that the melody of the song is remarkably similar to the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso. "There I go admitting my failures again, but just so you know, I'm aware." Marling likes to challenge herself during her live sets by playing new, still unfamiliar material that she hasn't even recorded yet, and on this night she played a brand new song called "Pray For Me" that was just stunning. If that track is any indication, her fourth LP is bound to be something pretty special.

Marling went on to lighten the mood just a bit while introducing her next number: "As you can tell from all the stuff I said before, I'm not going to be professional in any way, shape, or form here tonight. When I left my flat to come to America, I made a note to remind myself. The note said three things: passport, money, two guitars. The note didn't say a guitar strap, so I have to use the shoulder strap on my favorite handbag." But it did the trick, as her sprightly guitar work sounded wonderful all evening, especially on tender versions of "Ghosts" and "Failure."

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz

​"So the next song I'm going to play is very appropriate for this time of year. I really love Christmas, and every time I'm away from home at Christmas time it feels like I'm in a film." As soon as Marling said that, I new she was going to play "Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)," a song I was really hoping to hear during the set. It was truly a gorgeous, moving rendition, especially as a stripped-down solo version, as Marling's gentle vocals and muted guitar soared through the stone silent room. A tasteful cover of Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run The Game" soon followed, and at this point Marling really seemed to hit her stride and seem comfortable under the spotlight.

Despite her earlier warning, Marling proved to be pretty talkative throughout the set, sharing a funny story about her folks with the crowd: "I got a text from my parents earlier, and they come from an era where if you're on stage than you're a star. They come to see me play whenever I'm around London, and they've said that they would like me to be more forthcoming while I'm performing. So the text I got from them said 'For God's sake, just smile.'" It was a candid, revealing story that surely forged a deeper connection with the audience, and lead to an impassioned version of "Night After Night" that was a clear standout of the set.

After lovely renditions of "Hope In The Air" and "Rambling Man," Marling thanked us all for coming, and announced that this next song would be her final one for the evening. After someone in the crowd yelled "No!" Marling joked, "Well, now this gets even more awkward," and proceeded to explain how when she has a band with her, it becomes quite obvious that "we aren't nearly rock 'n roll enough to pull off an encore." So, she ended the night with a touching version of "I Speak Because I Can" and was off, leaving all of us satisfied and stunned, but still wanting more. I only hope it doesn't take Laura three more years to come back and play for us all again.

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz

Critic's Bias: After that 400 Bar show, I thought it would be Laura Marling that would be the break out star, not Mumford & Sons. I was thrilled to be seeing her again, and was glad she was playing to a full room this time.

The Crowd: I have never seen that many chairs out for a seated show at the Cedar. As the signs said on the door, "This show is extremely sold-out."

Overheard In The Crowd: Thankfully, nothing other than Laura's voice and guitar. I love the Cedar for that and so many other reasons.

Random Notebook Dump: I waited in line for the Men's Room with a group of four women who didn't want to wait in the ladies line. That was a bit odd. Hi girls!

Setlist:

I Was Just A Card

The Muse

Sophia

Pray For Me (New Song)

Ghosts

Failure

Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)

Blues Run The Game (Jackson C. Frank)

Night After Night

Hope In The Air

Rambling Man

I Speak Because I Can

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz


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