Thursday, February 11th, 2010
Hope In The Air
Laura Marling and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangHad Tuesday night’s Laura Marling show taken place at originally-intended venue of the Drake Underground rather than its final locale of Lee’s Palace (just under three times larger), then there’d have been throngs of disappointed fans either milling around outside the Parkdale hotel or moping at home instead of nearly packing the Annex club (and burrito outlet), eager to hear Marling preview material from her forthcoming second album I Speak Because I Can, due out April 6. And though this wasn’t Marling’s first visit to the city, her stock has risen considerably since her Toronto debut at the Rivoli in October 2008 so for many, this was probably their first opportunity to see her live.
Just as he did a year and a half ago, multi-instrumentalist Marling co-conspirator Pete Roe was an unscheduled opener. Unfortunately, unlike last time I wasn’t there in time to see his short set. There’d still be plenty of Roe through the night, however, as he would remain onstage for pretty much the entire night as in addition to playing with Marling, he was making his debut as a touring member of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel. The Denver outfit was apparently down a few members on account of a broken-down van, but what pieces they had on hand were plenty to make a great impression. As one look at the bearded Rateliff might have tipped off, their sound was decidedly traditional and rootsy but with enough character to stand out. Gothic-sounding without being grim and infused with a good sense of melody, they definitely marked themselves as an act to keep an eye out for when they release their new record later this year.
The advance word on I Speak Because I Can is that Marling has gotten dark, and in more ways than just her hair – an opinion borne out from the very first song of her set, the galloping new single “Devil’s Spoke”. From the sounds of the new material that made up most of her set, Marling has checked some of her more pop inclinations in favour of a more dramatic approach and it serves her well. Selections from Alas I Cannot Swim were held to just a few singles, but the new material sounded so good and was so clearly evidence of an artist who’s grown significantly in the past couple of years that there wasn’t going to be any complaining. In fact, most in attendance seemed so pleased to simply be seeing Marling perform that by and large, the audience actually shut up while she played.
Backed by Roe and The Wheel for the opening and closing portions of the set and performing solo for the middle, Marling was a far more confident performer than the girl I saw in 2008 or even last March at SxSW. Largely gone was the thousand-yard stare or sense of being somewhere else entirely, and in its place were more jokes and storytelling and general engagement with the crowd, and though she didn’t entirely realize where she was when she introduced her cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle And The Damage Done”, at least we know she wasn’t pandering to the city. And while she does the, “we’re just going to play our encore without leaving the stage” announcement every show, we got to hear “Alas I Cannot Swim” get charmingly waylaid by what she called, “unexpected giggles” and forgetting the words. A perfectly imperfect way to finish the show, and enough to satisfy until the new record and another visit arrives.
Photos: Laura Marling, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel @ Lee’s Palace – February 9, 2010
MP3: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
Video: Laura Marling – “Devil’s Spoke”
Video: Laura Marling – “Night Terror”
Video: Laura Marling – “New Romantic”
Video: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
Video: Laura Marling – “My Manic & I”
Video: Laura Marling – “Cross Your Fingers”
MySpace: Laura Marling
MySpace: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel