Sep 23, 2011

Laura Marling and Alessi's Ark at Lincoln Hall on 9/22/11

English born Laura Marling is an old soul housed in a young 21 year old petite body. The depth, darkness and profundity of her lyrics and the mournful and haunting quality of her vocals are like no one else that comes to mind and well beyond her years. You have to wonder where all that dark insight comes from in someone so young and as a result, inexperienced in life. No offense meant, but listening to her on a recording you would place her at closer to a peri if not post menopausal age, due to her vocal maturity and style. I had flashes (not hot) while listening to her of Tina Dico (blonde, young, petite, and melancholy pitch perfect vocals) and older folk icons like Joni Mitchell but still, Marling has her own brand of old soulfulness. I have a new found appreciation for her writing and have been listening to "I Speak Because I Can" with a heightened appreciation after seeing her perform these songs live.

Marling began the show by stating up front that she is not "good with banter", chooses to only speak about "facts", and has a new found favorite coffee, Intelligentsia (she discovered during her Chicago visit). She also mentioned as "fact" that although she sings about a place called Salinas and being married, neither of these are autobiographical. I would argue that this counts as "banter" and is as good or better banter than is often experienced. She also talked to and responded to the audience, often giggling on stage with her band about off the cuff audience commentary (someone said "dead puppies" for example - I am uncertain about the reference...). She was humble yet confident on stage and has a self-deprecating sense of humor. She decided to play a new song (as yet unnamed and a "just learned that day" Neil Young cover) and commented that she was likely to "F-Up". Beware of self fulfilling prophecy. She did "F-Up" and dropped another one or two F bombs only to tell herself, on stage, to stop cursing.

My pet peeve of late is when performers do not introduce the members of the band. Marling seamlessly and professionally introduced her talented band which consisted of a double bass player, guitarist, keyboard player, drummer, and a multi-instrumentalist. Not to mention they all did back up harmony vocals. Her band was an amazing back drop for her show and in terms of volume, perfect. Her vocals were spot on, every word could be heard and the band served her well by adding drama and strength only when called for.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, Marling singing "Hope in the Air":

It was easy to understand why this show was sold out. I fortunately got tickets the day they were released, purchased via iPad on a drive to Minnesota in August. Underscoring the worth of my recent iPad splurge. The fans in the crowd were respectfully quiet throughout her performance, except for two "mean girls" standing next to me that decided to loudly mock and chide the performance and Laura's banter (or "facts"). Who were these misplaced and poorly raised women? Why were they there? Where was my rude, classless, tacky, trashy, uncouth bitch CONCERT TASER when I needed it? I became fondly known as "the woman who was shushing me". Lucky for her that was all I did.

As for now, I cannot wait to download her latest release "A Creature I Don't Know" and wallow in the deep waters. The show, acoustics, and venue get a 5 out of 5 guitar rating and I am not just being nice. She was THAT good.

Dinner before a show at Lincoln Hall:

Could include before mentioned Japanese Kyoto (see Mathien entry) or another fun spot, Barn and Company for Barbecue! Barn and Company has an outdoor patio with heaters, great service, and delicious pulled pork, grilled shrimp salad and other standards like ribs. They have specials everyday and $6 salads on Wednesday (if I remember correctly). It is located on Lincoln and Wrightwood (you can smell the food on the barbie from down the street).

Opening Act: Alessi's Ark

From Alessi's Ark Facebook page:

“Oh, by now, I must have grown”, Alessi Laurent-Marke sings, beautifully, four songs into her stunning sophomore album, TIME TRAVEL. And hasn’t she just - not yet 21 but already a seasoned pro, having recorded her debut album aged just 17, with members of Bright Eyes, and touring with the likes of Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons and Brighton cult faves the Willkommen Collective. “Time Travel” is the first Alessi’s Ark album since signing to Bella Union, where her acutely melodic and exquisitely tender folk-pop charms haven’t just grown; they’ve blossomed into something extraordinarily mature.

The experience of recording ‘Time Travel’ - in Brighton’s Electric Studios with Wilkommen Collective’s Marcus Hamblett and at Bryn Derwen in Wales with David Wrench (Beth Orton, Bat for Lashes) - gave the album its name. “In Brighton, we did 12 hour days and had no idea what was going on in the outside world. In Wales, there was no phone signal, and it felt far away from everything.”

The 12-track Time Travel alternates between anxiety and joy, between childlike wishes and grown-up truths - how change can force us apart but also signify growth. Intimacy is the key not just to Time Travel’s sound but also its soul. “This is a collection of songs that have mostly grown from travelling and touring, away from the familiarity of home, family and friends”.

Additional review and observations from me:

Alessi has a lovely, beautiful and angelic voice almost ethereal to listen to. Once again, her songs have a maturity beyond that of a typical 21 year old. A few quirky notes: during the show she had the assistance of Laura Marling's capable instrumentalist who initially stood behind her playing electric guitar (right behind her and thus "stage blocked"). He later moved around the stage in a circular manner to play several other instruments that were positioned around the stage. I just found this to be a bit unusual. Alessi comes across as extremely shy and somewhat uncomfortable having a large audience. After completing a song she would mutter "OK" almost as if she were glad to have gotten one more over with successfully. I am also not sure of how strong her Chicago fan base is but she would occasionally play a song, sing the lyrics incorrectly, apologize awkwardly, and start over. I am willing to bet that no one would have known if she just kept on playing. Even Ella Fitzgerald would keep on singing through her mistakes, some of which were classic. Lastly, I am not sure why she dressed in such a puritanical way (see photo). You cannot help but think Mormon. Likely she is not. All in all she managed to be very endearing and we enjoyed listening to her sweet vocals. Alessi offers three free downloads through her Facebook page if you join her mailing list. The cutest thing though is that if you purchase her CD at a show it comes with a handmade by Alessi crocheted "CD bag". Endearing indeed.

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