Showing posts with label Laura Marling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura Marling. Show all posts

Monday, 9 July 2012

The day my daughter made me a CD

The windscreen wipers were going at top speed as we drove home from the stupendous Laura Marling concert on Saturday night.

But the singer’s performance had been so uplifting that nothing could dampen our spirits – not even the torrential rain, nor a disagreement (I mean discussion) about which radio station to listen to. My daughter rejected Radio 4 as “boring,” while I only had to hear the first few bars of a Sean Paul dance number on Capital FM to shudder in horror.

So my daughter rummaged around the back of the car to try and find a CD we’d both like – and amazingly found THIS. She shoved it in the CD player and it was like going back eight years in time.

In the summer of 2004 my mum was gravely ill and I spent as much time in Dorset with her as I could. My daughter, who was only 12, often came with me and as we headed south down the A34 she always took charge of the music. Neither of us had an iPod back then and in an attempt to cheer me up in troubled times she played DJ. With a stack of CD cases on her lap, she’d constantly switch from one to another, playing a track off a Joan Armatrading CD, then one from a Rolling Stones album, and then one from The Stereophonics, all the way to the Purbeck hills.

That Christmas, my daughter gave me one of the loveliest presents ever. It was a compilation of all the tracks she’d played me in the car during those dark months. I played it so much that I’m surprised it didn’t wear to bits. But then I bought my first iPod and CDs became a thing of the past. Until Saturday, when she played it all over again… 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Laura Marling plays the Royal Albert Hall

Whether you’re an old-timer or a young ingenue, performing in front of 5,000 people must be pretty daunting.

But 22-year-old Laura Marling showed barely a trace of nerves when she took the stage for a one-off show at London’s Royal Albert Hall last night.

Newly returned from an American tour, she said she and her five-piece band had been away a long time and claimed they were “terrified.” You’d never have known it from her performance, which was as cool and self-assured as ever.

Marling, who despite her tender age has three bestselling albums to her name and recently finished writing her fourth, isn’t like other singers. She doesn’t do gimmicks or banter and far from looking glammed up or flashy onstage she wore a simple long black dress and trainers, tuned her guitars in between numbers and concentrated on singing her heart out. She featured two new songs (even though “it’s not what you’re supposed to do at gigs”), admitting along the way that her parents would be “quaking” and there was a possibility she might “mess up.” She didn’t, of course.

Whether she was performing the haunting Night after Night alone or the recent single Sophia with her band, Marling’s gorgeous voice stopped us all in our tracks. One fan was so pole-axed that he yelled “you’re a legend” at her, while another shouted “I want to have your babies, Laura.” “You’re making me blush,” she said quietly before launching into the next number.

Another notable thing about Laura Marling is that she doesn’t do encores. But at least she’s straight-talking and warns the audience in advance. With two songs to go, she told us: “If you wanted an encore, then this is the last number. If you didn’t want an encore, then this is the second to last.”

As ever, she was true to her word. As we rose from our seats to pay tribute to her jaw-dropping talent, she jumped off the circular stage, hurried through the stalls and was gone before we had time to blink.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Laura Marling plays Birmingham's Symphony Hall

The last time I went to a proper rock concert was years ago, when I saw Elton John take the Winter Gardens at Bournemouth by storm.

The audience was noisy but respectful, especially when he launched into mega-hits like Crocodile Rock and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

But if Laura Marling’s concert at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on Friday night was anything to go by, today’s concert-goers are a far trickier proposition. It was the second day of her UK tour and not surprisingly, the gig was a sell-out. The singer has a voice that sends shivers down your spine and deservedly won the Brit award for best female solo artist in 2011. I saw her perform at Birmingham Cathedral in the autumn and she was mesmerising. This concert was different though – part of a fully-blown, countrywide tour, with supporting acts and a backing band.

Considering we’d all paid £25 a ticket to hear her sing, I couldn’t believe how annoying some some of the audience were. Scores of people trotted out to the loo midway through songs, clip-clopping down the aisle in noisy shoes. One ill-mannered man near the front kept bellowing “talk to us” in between songs (Marling doesn’t do the usual sort of chat), girls kept whooping (“you’ll have sore throats in the morning,” warned the singer) and at one bizarre point a dog barked.

But Marling and her band, professional to the core, kept their cool and kept belting out the music. Once I’d managed to ignore the infuriating people, I sat back and enjoyed songs like the haunting Goodbye England (Covered in Snow), Sophia and a new number called I am the Master Hunter.

The whole experience made me admire the 22-year-old singer even more. It struck me, too, that if actors had to contend with the yelling, mobile phones, dogs, whoops and rudeness, they’d storm offstage in a trice. The self-possessed Laura Marling, however, soldiered impressively on and turned out a sterling performance. If you get the chance, go and see her in concert. It’s a treat.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Laura Marling, Saunton Sands and the last day of the holidays

It’s the last day of the holidays and everyone’s feeling grumpy. So grumpy that you could cut the air with a knife. My son’s revising polymers (I’m not sure what they even are) and my daughter’s trying to write an essay on nineteenth century French philosophy.

Our Cumbrian Christmas (above) seems another world away. Tomorrow my son will be back at school and my daughter will catch the Oxford Tube back to university. We always check the dates extra carefully after the debacle of a few years ago when I put my daughter on the school bus the day before term actually started. She was halfway to Oxford by the time she realised none of her friends had got on the bus. She’s never lived it down – her pal Holly was still teasing her about it on New Year’s Eve, seven years later.

I love the holidays. The atmosphere in the house is completely different. My Laura Marling tracks get switched off (“ugh,” says my horrified son) and Radio One blares constantly in the kitchen. My son cooks bacon sandwiches every couple of hours and my daughter sits in my study and chats to me. Neither of them emerge till 11 most mornings and they both stay up for hours after I’ve gone to bed.

Their school holidays are far more relaxed and free than the ones I remember. Me and my sister often spent Easter and summer breaks with our grandparents in the wilds of North Devon. It was a lovely place but it certainly wasn’t relaxed. Most days we’d buy picnics of Cornish pasties and Kunzel Cakes at Mr Moon’s old-fashioned grocery shop. We’d go for long windswept walks across Saunton Sands and try and steer clear of my grandmother’s two yappy Dachshund dogs, who were liable to take a bite out of our ankles when we weren’t looking. Every Saturday morning we walked into the pretty town of Braunton to spend our pocket money on Enid Blyton books, tiny bottles of Devon violets and Refresher sweets. How times have changed…

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The art of haggling - and a free Laura Marling CD

I like a bargain as much as anyone. My purse is stuffed with discount vouchers and cuttings snipped out of newspapers and magazines – from a Paperchase offer in today’s Observer to a handful of dog-eared Tesco vouchers.

But apparently what we should be doing in these cash-strapped times, and especially in the run-up to Christmas, is haggling. Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? magazine, says: “Christmas doesn’t have to be cancelled. Savvy shoppers can save money with online deals, discount days and pre-Christmas sales. You should compare prices between stores and don’t be afraid to haggle to get the best price.”

Apparently everyone is doing it, including Sun columnist Jane Moore, whose husband got £3,000 off her new car by haggling. Well, lucky her, but the trouble is that in order to get a great deal in the shops you have to be a very cool, confident customer. Not only that, I reckon that shops dishing out discounts probably have a cut-off price they’d sell the goods at anyway. You only have to look at the zillions of on-line offers around right now to realise that. I’ve currently got emails giving 15 per cent off at Cologne & Cotton, Emma Bridgewater, the Conran Shop and more arriving by the day.

When it comes to haggling, though, you’ve either got what it takes or you haven’t. I remember my mother giving it a go at Covent Garden market years ago. Browsing at a clothes stall, she spotted some trousers for £15 and a top for £10 and asked the stall-holder “can you do the two for £30?” He clearly couldn't believe his ears. “Yep, I think I can,” he said, quickly wrapping the items up.

I’ve clearly inherited her bartering skills. Looking for an outfit to wear to a wedding, I spied a chic straw boater at a posh Battersea milliner’s. The price tag next to it said £75 so I went in and tried it on. It was perfect. “I’ll have it,” I said. “That’ll be £70,” said the assistant. “Er, shouldn’t it be £75?” I queried and duly paid the more expensive price. When we got outside my husband rolled his eyes in despair. “You are the only person I know who manages to barter the price up,” he said.

PS. It wasn’t just the Paperchase offer that made me buy the Observer this morning. As I mentioned a couple of months back, I’m a huge fan of Laura Marling. So I could hardly believe my luck when a Laura Marling CD featuring ten live and studio tracks (some from her recent tour of English cathedrals) came free with today’s issue. It has quite made my day. And I didn’t even have to haggle to get it!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Laura Marling plays Birmingham Cathedral

Under a grey October sky we joined a queue stretching the length of Birmingham Cathedral and across the churchyard green.

Everyone in the line had snapped up tickets for the last day of Laura Marling’s For Whom the Bell Tolls tour (you had to be quick because they sold out in a trice) and the sense of excitement was palpable.

The tour has seen the singer play a series of gigs at cathedrals up and down the country. Whoever came up with the idea should be applauded because if the Birmingham concert was anything to go by, England’s cavernous cathedrals offer the perfect acoustics for Marling’s amazing voice and storytelling lyrics.

She played two Birmingham events, one at lunchtime and a second in the evening. We had seats near the back but it didn’t matter because Marling, a slight blonde figure playing acoustic guitar, commanded the entire place from start to finish. From the moment she arrived at the front and quietly said “I’m Laura,” we sat spellbound. There were no gimmicks, no accompanying musicians and barely any chat. Apart from a couple of anecdotes about her former days touring in a five-piece band stuffed (drum-kit and all) into a Ford KA, she kept everything simple – and just sang her heart out.

With three albums and the 2011 Brit award for best female solo artist to her name, it’s hard to believe that Marling is only 21. Just hearing her play some of my favourites, Night Terror, Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) and Sophia, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Every number she played was her own apart from a haunting cover of Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, which, she recalled, she used to listen to on a mix-tape driving home from concerts in the early days because she couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel.

I didn’t realise at the time but Marling never plays encores. It could be that the hundreds in the audience didn’t know either, or maybe they just couldn’t bear to accept it. As the final chords of Marling’s guitar faded away, the claps, cheers and foot-stamping sounded loud enough to raise the cathedral roof from its rafters. But with a quick shy smile and the lights catching the top of her blonde head, she was gone.

PS: Today’s Mail on Sunday reports that Pippa Middleton is close to signing a book deal on how to be the perfect party hostess. The Duchess of Cambridge’s sister already writes a blog on children’s parties for her parents’ mail-order business, Party Pieces, and apparently the book will have a tone similar to the blog. In a recent blog entry, says the MoS, Pippa advised: “The key to creating a wonderful party lies not in spending vast amounts but in planning – from choice of venue, entertainer and party theme to the selection of food, decorations and the birthday cake.” Talk about stating the blooming obvious. I’m sorry, Pippa, but you’re going to have to do a lot better than that...

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