Published May 26, 2013It's clear that Laura Marling is determined to do things her own way. Just days before her latest album Once I Was an Eagle is released, the British songstress graced the stage in the gallery space of Toronto's 99 Sudbury. And without a backing band, or even a guitar tech, Marling embraced the chance to showcase her new material solo. She even took transportation into her own hands to make the gig, renting a car and driving up from Chicago after a cancelled flight threatened to derail the scheduled appearance.
The airport drama was the topic of the longest anecdote she shared over multiple tuning breaks in the set, though she also fired off banter about a handful of recent shows and the fact that her parents still scold her when they read about her taking pause to fiddle with guitar tuning. The brief interruptions were easy to overlook, though, as Marling seemed to have the crowd easily laughing along with her after the first couple. And in spite of the minor hiccups, there were plenty of moments when Marling demonstrated her ability to wow.
She opened with almost all of the first 20 minutes of the new record (a four-part mega-song), starting with "Take the Night Off" and flowing seamlessly into "I Was an Eagle," "You Know" and "Breathe" — finally breaking before the roaring "Master Hunter" to let the audience make their approval heard. The set relied heavily on her soon-to-be-released LP, but Marling also threw in a cover of Townes Van Zandt "For the Sake of the Song" and reached into her own back catalogue for live staples like I Speak Because I Can's title track, "Rambling Man" and "Blackberry Stone." After "Little Bird," Marling informed the crowd of her awkward no encore rule, telling those who wanted one to pretend that the aforementioned track was the last song on the set list and those who didn't (which, frankly, was probably no one) to rejoice after one more. She thanked the room for being kind regardless of delivering "25 percent tuning and 25 percent an airport story," eliciting a final round of laughter, then launched into Eagle closer "Saved These Words." Marling's self-deprecating humour, set stoppages and abrupt farewells may not be the markings of the most conventional entertainment, but as much as her music continues to leap forward it's nice to see that some things probably won't change. She's still a pleasure to watch.