Live music review – Laura Marling, Glastonbury Festival, 25th June 2017

Setlist:
Soothing
Wild Fire
The Valley
Nothing, Not Nearly
Don’t Pass Me By
Sophia
Once
Salinas
Daisy
How Can I
I Speak Because I Can
Rambling Man

On a hazy afternoon at the Pyramid Stage, just before Barry Gibb kickstarted a night of partying for a crowd ready to go out in a blaze of glory, Laura Marling was providing a set equivalent of the quiet before the storm. It was a beautiful and understated performance that showed her abilities both as a songwriter and as a performer, with a subtle backing band providing a platform to allow her songs to soar.

The first and only time I had seen her previously was at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent in July 2008. Back then she’d just released her debut album ‘I Speak Because I Can‘, which was making waves at the time, and she wowed an audience who were there primarily there to watch Neil Young, Supergrass and My Morning Jacket. Not bad for an 18 year old.

Fast forward to 2017 and you can see a massive development in her as an artist. Her latest album, ‘Semper Femina‘, is a collection of songs exploring what it is to be a female. For me, music has to come from a position of passion and commitment to what is being said. For that very reason, Laura Marling absolutely one of the most authentic artists out there and the album rates in the top releases so far this year.

The new songs featured heavily in the setlist, making up five of the twelve tracks, including ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ and set opener ‘Soothing’. But it was ‘Rambling Man’ from her debut album that stuck with me the most, with most of the crowd joining in for the famous refrain.

To those unaware of her work, she could be mistaken for being overly indebted to Joni Mitchell. This is wholly untrue and inaccurate. Marling is an artist in her own right and has been prolific and consistently excellent for a decade now.

Long may it continue.

[Note] When Marling introduced Daisy, she mentioned a friend of hers called Daisy May-Hudson who last year directed a film called ‘Halfway’, a film about homeless housing struggles. I had never heard of it but I’ve located a trailer for it online here and if I can locate it online I’ll make sure I watch it

Live music review – First Aid Kit, Glastonbury Festival, 23rd June 2017

Setlist:

Wolf
Master Pretender
Waitress Song
The Lion’s Roar
You Are the Problem Here
Ghost Town
King of the World
It’s a Shame
The Gambler
Stay Gold
Emmylou
My Silver Lining

Sandwiched between Northern indie rockers Blossoms and country legend Kris Kristofferson and with a rain cloud threatening above them, First Aid Kit managed to bridge the tonal gap whilst standing out as a powerful group well at home at a festival they were appearing at for the third time.

Kicking off with 2012 single ‘Wolf’, it was hard not to feel mesmerised by the band, fronted by sisters Klara Söderberg and Johanna Söderberg. These are not just great singers and musicians, but great performers too, exhibiting passion and anger at times to provide an edge to what many try to pigeonhole as either folk or country music. Or both.

Recent single ‘You Are The Problem Here‘ was a case in point, with Klara’s refrain “I hope you fucking suffer” causing plenty of mid-afternoon picnic blanket revellers to stand up and take up notice.

With songs like ‘Stay Gold’ and ‘My Silver Lining’, it’s truly difficult not to fall in love with them and their songs. They’re simply beautiful, heartfelt and honest pieces of music. It’s hard to think that anyone who was really paying attention wasn’t a fan by the end of their set.

A triumph.

James Bay live at the Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival, 26th June 2015

Setlist:

Collide
Craving
When We Were On Fire
If You Ever Want to Be in Love
Need The Sun To Break
Let It Go
Scars
Move Together
Best Fake Smile
Get Out While You Can
If I Ain’t Got You
Hold Back the River

On 28th June 2013 I went to see Jake Bugg perform a set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. As the hot new acoustic folk kid on the block, there was a lot of anticipation around his performance. He walked out boldly, with just himself and a guitar, and launched into the romantic “Fire”. As the set progressed, it became increasingly obvious that he wasn’t going to interact with the audience. Indeed, his body language just didn’t have any command to it. Whilst he had the tunes, he didn’t have the charisma to fill such a big stage.

Two years on, 2015’s JB found himself in a similar situation. He has been something of a revelation this year – he has been playlisted frequently on both BBC Radio 1 and 2 and his last few singles have all troubled the Top 40 in the UK.

As he performed album track “Collide”, however, I couldn’t help but feel concerned that he might be swallowed up as well. Then the crowd erupted, he shot out a smile and all was well. It was a fantastic moment.

From start to finish he blew away a rammed Pyramid Stage with some breathtaking vocals and subtly restrained guitars. He’s clearly very popular and it’s easy to see why, especially when around 60,000 people are singing every word back to him on “Take Back The River” and “Let It Go”. For someone who was largely unknown a year ago he clearly has what it takes to command the largest of audiences. [1]

Well done sir, you were fantastic.

[1] Ironically Bay’s biggest hit “Hold Back The River”, which hit number 2 earlier this year, was co-written with Bugg’s regular collaborator Iain Archer, along with half of his debut album. Small world, eh?