With Laura Marling, a sold-out theater still feels intimate (photos, review, setlist)

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Laura Marling | Photo by John Vettese
Laura Marling | Photo by John Vettese

“That was a really long opening song,” Laura Marling told the sold-out crowd at the newly-renovated Prince Music Theater. It was actually more like four songs – a medley of the opening suite of her new album, Once I was an Eagle, which stretches to about fifteen minutes even with Marling performing solo, minus the percussive and instrumental flourishes on the record. She laughed and thanked the audience for being so attentive – as if they were going to talk over top of her. Marling had the crowd at her August 30th performance pretty much enraptured during her hour-and-fifteen minute set last night, and the English singer-songwriter has an uncanny way of making a packed theater feel as intimate as a living room show.

Though Marling is an intense performer in many ways – gritting her teeth, looking out at the crowd with an intense stare, singing expressively about lust and betrayal and self-reliance – when she is not singing, she is warm and funny, joking about her guitars acting up on her and self-effacingly cracking on the tedium of acting as both performer and technician.

“This is the point the set where I normally switch guitars,” she said. “But this guitar is behaving very well. And I feel comfortable tuning it in front of you.”

Though the set was largely focused on Eagle, Marling visited her 2010 outing I Speak Because I Can for a three-song stretch mid-way through (“Alpha Shallows” was great), performed “Sophia” from 2011′s A Creature I Don’t Know, test drove two new ones (“Bleed Me Dry” has been performed on radio sessions, another listed only as “Rambo” seems very brand new) and played her take on The Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.” The husky blues of the original was remade Marling’s minimal acoustic style, but she didn’t seem pleased with the results. “I think I’m too English to pull that one off,” she said. Not true; it sounded great.

Philly folk-inspired trio The Gallerist opened the night with a well-recieved half-hour set drawing from their 2011 EP A Falling Waltz as well as material from the record they told the crowd they’ll be recording this fall. Catch them playing two shows on October 5th at One Shot Cafe (with The Sun Flights) and The Fire (with The Levee Drivers). Below, see a gallery of photos from the concert, and after the jump, check out Marling’s setlist and a video of “I Speak Because I Can.”

Setlist
Medley: Take The Night Off / I Was An Eagle / You Know / Breathe
Master Hunter
Bleed Me Dry
Rambo
I Speak Because I Can
Alpha Shallows
What He Wrote
Whipping Post
Sophia
Pray for Me
Once
Saved These Words

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