Just as Laura Marling’s albums have made a slow move toward the mythic, so too have her live shows begun to transcend the very limitations of performance space. Striding onto the Enmore Theatre’s stage, dressed in black and armed with a guitar, she was somehow realer than her surroundings; truer then the space she inhabited. Backed by a cellist, a drummer and her vast and thrilling catalogue, she moved from tune to tune, in utter control of both her material and her self.
The performance was wrought into life with a medley, as Marling played almost ten minutes of interrupted material from across her body of work. Songs flowed and morphed without break, until, like eight millimetre film getting trapped behind the gate, the music clipped itself out of existence. From that point songs were presented fully formed – singly – but no less powerfully. An ever so subtly reworked version of Master Hunter stunned, with the tunes’ defiant lyric reflected in the trembling power of Marling’s voice.
With the grace of a jackdaw flitting from branch to branch, Marling moved through her albums, releasing the anthemic, stunning Salinas; the subtle, heart-wrenching Goodbye England (Covered In Snow); and the hypnotic What He Wrote. Between songs she spoke with confidence and warmth, referring to the full-throated greeting she received as ‘a very Australian welcome’ and thanking those who enthusiastically shouted out their love for her in the awed silence that slotted into place after every single song she played.
It speaks to both the loyalty of her fans and the quality of her most recent album, Short Movie, that her new songs were received by the audience as warmly as her older, tried and true crowd-pleasers. The album’s titular track in particular cut through the theatre, reducing the space to the exact dimensions of Marling’s voice.
She seemed to innately know the beats of the show, managing to move the room with pinpoint precision from emotion to emotion. At one point she boosted the mood by dropping a tender and energetic version of Dolly Parton’s Do I Ever Cross Your Mind before expertly transitioning into her own material, moving from might to melancholy and then back again.
“We’re getting dangerously close to the end of the show,” Marling warned towards the tail end of the eighty plus minute set. The crowd let out a very deliberately audible sigh of pain; Marling laughed, kindly, and then launched into an ecstatic version of Rambling Man, a song that contains the line, “let it always be known that I was who I am.”
Here’s the thing. I have seen Laura Marling perform live seven times now. I have seen her play in a church. I have seen her play in the Sydney Opera House. I have seen her blister through set after set. And though she has changed subtly, slightly, she has always been who she is. She has always been Laura Marling. And for that reason, it will always be known as thus: with every show Laura Marling reasserts herself; becoming greater in every conceivable way, travelling closer and closer to a point of absolute perfection.