Live Review: Laura Marling with Alessi’s Ark at Sixth and I Synagogue, Washington, DC – 27th September 2011

By on Friday, 30th September 2011 at 2:00 pm

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of seeing three sold out shows (so far) in the historic synagogue in DC – the xx in March 2009, the Airborne Toxic Event in September 2009, and just a couple nights ago, Laura Marling. The synagogue is often described as a sanctuary, which is completely appropriate for an evening with Laura Marling and her opener on this tour, Alessi’s Ark. Both acts take the words ‘singer/songwriter’ and prove that even though they are young and female, they have more talent in a finger that plucks a guitar string than most top 40 artists.

Alessi Laurent-Marke, the woman behind Alessi’s Ark, started her set with the words “you are beautiful”. We could have said the same about her music. Although I’d never seen her perform, I had an idea that she would be quite bashful, like the Laura Marling I’d seen last year. She might have been stumbling over her stage patter from nerves, but once she started singing, she showed what she sings in ‘Stalemate’ is true: “the only thing I’ve learnt is I like singing / all the lessons that the guitar is bringing.” Good for us that she has turned her attention to writing songs, with grace (‘Time Travel’) and demonstration that you can cope with the pain of losing a love (‘On the Plains’). In a true act of democracy, she let the crowd choose the final song – it was to be either ‘Hummingbird’ from her 2009 album ‘Notes from the Treehouse’ or ‘The Robot’ from her current album, ‘Time Travel’. ‘The Robot’ won out, with Laurent-Marke standing there, looking overwhelmed by the positive response from the audience.

One thing that Laurent-Marke said during her set: “are you ready for Laura and her gang? They’re gonna melt your faces off!” It was funny hearing such a precious young woman say that to us, but it turned out to be true. When I saw Laura Marling last year at Iota, I was struck by how quiet and shy she was. This time around, she was still a bit shy, but she told jokes that made us laugh (like how she would be singing some lies during the show and wanted to be aboveboard: “the first line of the song ‘Salinas’ is ‘I am from Salinas’, and I am not!”), which indicated to me that she was a lot more comfortable being a ‘rock star’. She should get used to this though, since her cathedral tour of the UK in October is sold out. Wearing a denim shirt and jeans, she looked very laid back and dressed appropriately for her folky, jazzy new album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ (review here).

The set covered all three of Marling’s albums, and it was startling to hear the heavy darkness of set opener ‘Rambling Man’, the simple beauty of ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ and the breezy folkiness of ‘The Muse’. I nearly cried hearing her play a solo version of ‘Goodbye England’ as she explained it didn’t matter at what time it was, whenever she was away from England she missed it terribly. ‘Sophia’, as the official video indicated, is fabulous-sounding live in a house of worship, her backing band on point. I will say this: if you have a ticket to the cathedral tour in October, feel lucky. Because below is a taste of what you will experience.


After the cut: set list and more photos.

Alessi’s Ark Set List:
On the Plains
Time Travel
The Horse
The Robot

Alessi’s Ark Photos:

Laura Marling Set List:
Rambling Man
Alpha Shallows
Alas I Cannot Swim
The Card
The Muse
Hope in the Air
Don’t Ask Me Why
Goodbye England (solo)
new song (solo)
Night After Night (solo)
Blackberry Stone
What He Wrote
I Speak Because I Can
All My Rage

Laura Marling Photos:

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[…] the 9:30 that the “new” Laura Marling had mixed reviews. Having not seen perform since 2011, I was keen on seeing how her live performance had changed in 4 […]

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