Laura Marling stands with her legs crossed, almost as if she’s in a ballerina’s third position, while playing at Webster hall in New York City on Sept. 28. It’s a strange posture, but somehow it fits the mood of her melancholy melodies.
Marling stands at an unassuming short height; she opens with subtle finger-picking on a guitar that seems a little big for her frame. She starts playing “Rambling Man” and the crowd sings along quietly as her backing band joins in during the chorus. Her band has a diverse pile of instruments at their disposal from banjo and cello to mandolin and upright bass to the standard drums, keyboard and guitar.
She stares at the back of the hall throughout most of the performance alternating between looking like she’s in a daze or in a rage.
“I’m not very good with stage banter,” she later says to the crowd before stepping closer to her microphone. Instead, Marling opts to share a strange fact with the crowd in between songs. She mentions the Webster Hall building was one of the first modern nightclubs in New York. She would later offer the bantering opportunity to her bandmates who once again steered the conversation toward the architecture of the building. The crowd laughed as they discussed the style of the roof.
She played several of her old songs — “Ghosts” and “Alas I Cannot Swim” were particularly pleasing to the crowd. They called out to her to play more of the older material in the desperate way fans often cling to the earlier works. One corner of the floor really wanted her to play “New Romantic,” but were ultimately disappointed. Though the performance of “Sophia” from 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know did not disappoint, hopefully reminding the attendees that one doesn’t simply go to see an artist rehash the songs we keep on repeat. There is (and always should be) a bit more life to the performance.
Marling said she didn’t feel “rock ‘n’ roll enough” for an encore. So she and her band didn’t give one. They did, however, introduce their penultimate song as their last for those who would want an encore before launching into “I Speak Because I Can.” When they did close the show with “All My Rage” the crowd didn’t move, hoping that this time she might have felt just a bit more rock ‘n roll.