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Review: Laura Marling Woos the Faithful at Columbia City, Seattle

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Photo: Catherine Yoshimoto.
Laura Marling may not enjoy the same following Stateside that she has in the UK – but that doesn’t mean her fans are any less in awe of her musicianship and songwriting talent. Her show at the Columbia City Theater on Thursday night was packed with star-struck teens and older music connoisseurs alike, as she played an hour-long set on her Working Holiday Tour. Nobody was left in any doubt that they were in the presence of real talent.

If you’re not familiar with Marling then it’s no great surprise. Her three studio albums have received widespread critical acclaim – and chart hits – back in Britain, but in the US she remains woefully ignored. Her folk songs are both steeped in tradition and indisputably modern, so it would seem that Seattle would be the perfect place for Marling to start her US invasion – and, sure enough, she seems to have a growing fanbase in the Emerald City. She played the Showbox as recently as June this year, but the Columbia City Theater was still abuzz with excitement as she took to the stage. Maybe the revolution starts here.

The stripped-back set proved to be both uncomplicated and mesmerizing, as Marling kept the crowd entranced with a pair of acoustic guitars and some well-judged banter between songs. If she seemed to spend almost as long tuning her guitars as she did playing them nobody was complaining, as it was soon clear that her attention to detail was what raised her above the average acoustic set. While some troubadours are happy to strum and warble simple verse-chorus-verse compositions, Marling seems to have a compulsive desire to mix things up. At times her guitar playing verged on Led Zeppelin-style rock, while her lyrical twists owe a clear debt to Dylan’s folk storytelling. Opening with a couple of new tracks, she spellbound the audience nonetheless with both her technical skills and her poetic penmanship.

Following a rambling story about a collision she witnessed in a coffee shop earlier that day, Laura Marling confessed that she often wanders around town wearing a large pair of noise-canceling headphones, oblivious to her surroundings. It’s an image that suits her: the music-obsessed folk poetess who sometimes seems to float several inches above the ground, her head already spiraling with new tunes. And if America can’t fall in love with that, then it’s our own loss.