Gig review: Laura Marling, Pleasance Theatre

A half dozen or so songs into her stripped-back set at the Pleasance Theatre on Friday night, folk darling Laura Marling alluded to an early gig she played at Bannerman’s as a teenager with the boys from Mumford and Sons. Recalling what’s surely the only time a Mercury-nominated artist has played the Cowgate toilet venue, the elfin singer-songwriter added that she was so skint back then she ended up sleeping inside a double bass case in a dusty room above the venue.

That was almost eight years ago and much has changed.

These days, the Brit Award-winner needn’t worry about about scraping together enough pennies to bed down for the night. For while she’s still not the million-seller her towering talent merits, she’s a chart-bothering artist who has built a fervent following over the course of five massively acclaimed albums. So much so, in fact, that when she chose to play two under-the-radar gigs in the Capital as warm-ups before heading off to join Neil Young on the UK leg of the Canadian legend’s Rebel Content tour, all that was required to sell out her double-header was a quick post on her official website.

Marling usually keeps between-song banter to a minimum, but she was in a chatty mood here. As well as that aforementioned Bannerman’s recollection, she talked about touring the UK in a Ford KA with “four sweaty lads” from Noah and the Whale. “Don’t forget I came from the streets,” she quipped.

Sans backing band, this was Marling laid bare, with only her guitar for company on stage. And what a treat.  In this format, the timeless quality of her music and lyrics really shines through. On the night, she performed a flawless set from her back catalogue. Highlights – and there were many – included Daisy, I Speak Because I Can, Rambling Man, Howl and Devil’s Spoke, plus a brand new song called Wildfire. The crowd, who listened intently throughout, were also treated to impressive covers of Bert Jansch’s Courting Blues and Townes Van Zandt’s Waiting Around To Die.

Still only 26 and already mentioned in the same breath as her own musical heroes, Marling seems stronger and more confident every time she plays in Edinburgh. Here’s hoping there’s not too long to wait before her next visit.

Words: Gary Flockhart