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The heavy mystique that fills the air at Hollywood Forever Cemetery sharpens the senses, and an intimate show inside the Masonic Lodge only makes the place that much more memorable. For those who ventured out on Sunday night, folk songstress Laura Marling, a musician who has never been afraid to share her tales of love, life and heaven alongside darker thoughts about graves, death and spirits, certainly made a brief stay with the dead a pleasant, if not uplifting, one.
“This is really nice, so far,” the two-time Mercury Prize nominee said after going headfirst into “Rambling Man” and “Alpha Shallows” off her 2010 album “I Speak Because I Can.” The “so far” bit may have implied a less-than-excited demeanor to some, but longtime fans know she’s not one to sugar-coat anything, which is exactly what makes her music so entrancing.
As the light-haired, dark-eyed English musician made an effort to go back into her catalog for old fans and played the title track off of her debut “Alas I Cannot Swim” and “Ghosts,” there was a slight shift as these songs were written by Marling at the age of 18. Her intricate melodies about heartbreak still rang true today, but as her five-piece band (which toted a multitude of instruments such as drums, upright bass, mandolin, banjo, guitar, French horn, cello, organ and piano) went into heavier, elaborate songs such as “I’m Just a Card” off her new record, “A Creature I Don’t Know,” the different movements were solid proof that Marling’s songwriting had intensely matured.
The show became even more intimate once the band left the stage for a handful of songs. With attendees seated in the lodge and respectfully silent during the set, Marling made sure to check and see if her fans were alive. “How are you doing?” she jokingly asked with a pseudo-worried tone. “It’s just me now.” (Earlier in the night, the venue was so quiet Alessi Laurent-Marke of Alessi’s Ark noted “I can even hear my nose. That’s how quiet it is!”)
To lighten the heavy mood, Marling produced a chuckle when she also confided in between songs, “I do this half a year, and I never know what to say.” And with that she once again went back into her catalog and offered haunting performances of “Rest in Bed,” “Goodbye England” and more. As an L.A. audience, it may have been difficult to relate to lyrics such as “And I never love England / More than when covered in snow,” but her gumption and honesty make “I won’t make believe that love is frail / And willing to break” lyrics to stand by even beyond the grave.
With the band rejoining her on stage for “Sophia,” (“You can pretend that was the last song, and this is the encore”), Marling ended the night on a charming, folk-pop note, a warm goodbye for that walk out of the lodge and across the cemetery.
Photos by Carl Pocket