I recently suffered the indignity of going to the cinema completely alone on a Saturday night. Buying my tickets and popcorn, I could only grin sheepishly as I repeated ‘yes just the one adult ticket, thanks’. Not a half hour previously I was at Bristol’s Thekla enjoying a captivating, intimate performance by Laura Marling – who is currently touring her as-yet unreleased LP Short Movie (debuting March 23) – and yet, there I was, alone.
The venue seemed the perfect match for Marling; Thekla’s history as a seafaring cargo ship echoes the incessant touring schedule that Marling has endured since she was 16 years old. Both take firm position as cultural powerhouses in their own right. In its relatively short history, Thekla has played host to seminal artists such as Massive Attack and Portishead, while Marling’s Short Movie will be her 5th album release in 7 years, with each album receiving greater critical acclaim than the last.
One of the myriad reasons for Marling’s success both live and in studio is for the emotion with which she imbues every single track. From the first minute of the opening song it is apparent that Marling’s performance is not to be a clinical, note-for-note mimicry of her studio recordings; with Joni Mitchell-esque fluidity she moved on a whim from delicate, honeyed vocals to warm, familiar spoken word. Her engagement with the audience is comfortable and easy, shirking the pretence of Marling as a performer, and instead taking on the human, easy-going character of the Marling whose birthday was celebrated not 3 days previously.
Then, all of a sudden, it’s her last song of the evening. A mere 75 minutes after first taking the stage, I am left standing on the street, my breath frosting before me wondering what to do for the next 4 hours before my bus ride home.