May 20, 2017
Review and photos by David Chiu
It kind of speaks volumes that an artist who performs intimate and subdued folk music can draw a sold-out crowd inside a very cavernous airplane-hangar-like venue. That was certainly the case of British folk artist Laura Marling this past Saturday when she headlined the newly-opened Brooklyn Steel in East Williamsburg. The show was entirely packed, to the point where it was hard to move within the crowd or to get to the doors. Even if the large size of the venue (akin to Terminal 5) would’ve easily dwarfed Marling’s music–which ideally would seem more suited in a smaller theater–it didn’t appear that way as she and her five-piece band delivered 90 minutes’ worth of the most moving and uplifting music you’ll hear today. Marling performed songs mostly off of her latest and exquisite album Semper Femina and kicked the show off with the record’s opening track, the jazzy “Soothing,” followed by other wonderful songs from the record such as “Wild Fire,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Always This Way,” “Wild Once,” “Nothing Not Nearly,” and “The Valley.” The newer materials complemented older songs including “Rambling Man,” “Sophia,” “Once” and “How Can I”; and Marling also performed a lovely cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “For the Sake of the Song.” It’s so easy for one to forget being inside a large venue or surrounded by so many people because Marling’s lovely voice—full of both grace and confidence–has this hypnotic effect that a brief moment transcends time and place and setting; the same thing applies to her fingerpicking playing on the guitar. Amid the sometimes somber and melancholy air evoked by the music, there was a moment of levity: with Marling not so much keen on delivering onstage banter with the audience, her bandmates chimed in, delivering various random facts (James Comey, getting hit it on, or the female scientist who played a role in the discovery of DNA). To put the night in a nutshell, you can have Marling headline Madison Square Garden, and she would still be able to fill up the place—that’s how resonant her music is.