[Photo credit to Ant Adams Photography]
Whenever I think of the Showbox, I’m flooded with memories from my first concert of young teenagers with blue eyeliner moshing to All Time Low. But after walking in to the Showbox last Friday night, clad in converse and an Easy Street sweatshirt, I suddenly felt underdressed. The venue was transformed; round tables with candles covered the center floor while the surrounding areas near the bars were lined with chairs. The huge Belgian-imported crystal chandelier no longer felt out of place.
Valley Queen (Los Angeles, CA) took the stage at 9:00 p.m. and played a short and sweet thirty minute set. From a distance, lead singer Natalie Carol reminded me of a folk-rock version of Florence Welch, with bold bangs, a long floral dress, and alluring vocals that flutter in her higher octaves. Valley Queen kicked of their set with the single, “Stars Align,” from their debut EP, Destroyer, and Carol’s voice reminded me of a young Joni Mitchell, but with more power and grit. They followed that up with “Painter in Your Pocket” a song with a melody that jumps quickly between notes and octaves, which Carol traversed expertly. Throughout the set, the lead guitarist and the drummer were perfectly locked in and loud enough that I could feel the bass drum in my bones without it being overwhelming. I spent the majority of the set paying closer attention to the drummer, and heard several murmurs from those sitting around me about how amazing he was. Several tracks featured interesting changes in tempo that the percussion led expertly. Before playing their last song, Carol appeased the audience by saying, “It was lovely to serenade you tonight.” It truly was wonderful to be serenaded.
As the stage crew began transitioning the stage to Laura Marling’s set, I started to notice the decorations. There were long white banners draped in the background with symbols designed for Semper Femina, and ivy garlands spotted with small flower bouquets wrapped around microphone stands, instruments, and between speakers. I felt transported into one of my favorite childhood movies, The Secret Garden, or perhaps a female-only Garden of Eden.
Laura Marling floated ethereally on stage amidst the ivy vines in a dark dress to the seductive baseline of the lead single, “Soothing,” which includes one of my favorite lyrics from the whole album, “My God is brooding.” Marling and her five-piece band, including sister singers Tamsin and Emma Topolski, Matt Ingram, Nick Pini and Simon Ribchester, followed up with several more cuts from Semper Femina, including laid back tracks “Wild Fire,” which featured the warm, deep-bodied timbre of a Guitarrón, and “The Valley.” Staying true to the original order of the album, the next song played was “Don’t Pass Me By,” which features a sort of dissonant, lute-esque guitar riff that made me think of the soundtrack to the film, Only Lovers Left Alive. I’ve had it stuck in my head for almost a week now, and I’m very content.
Except for a few words here and there, including praise for Valley Queen, Marling kept the banter to a minimum. She breezed through a couple more tracks from the new album, including “Always This Way,” which featured a beautiful double bass, the bluesy closing track “Nothing, Not Nearly,” and “Next Time,” a melancholy song about the state of our earth.
“I can no longer close my eyes/While the world around me dies/At the hands of folks like me/It seems they fail to see/there may never/next time be.”
Throughout the night, the audience cheered for Marling in the likes of which I usually expect at a rock concert. Although I agreed with the enthusiasm (being honest, I was not prepared for the response Marling received after prefacing the next track: a medley of old songs from her fourth studio album, Once I Was An Eagle). The ten-minute medley included “Take the Night Off” and the guitar riff all Laura Marling fans recognize immediately, as well as the sarcastic confessionals, “I Was an Eagle,” “You Know,” and “Breathe.” This was the point where Marling unleashed. This was the point the shrill, most-likely-drunk woman behind me unleashed. Everyone unleashed.
The rest of the show included a handful of favorite tracks from previous albums, as well as a quick break that featured a random fact from each band member. The facts were strangely animal-centric. Examples include: female dragonflies fake sudden death to avoid male advances, and apparently it is illegal to whisper in someone’s ear while they are hunting moose. Education and a show; what more could I ask for?
I brought my sister along with me as part of my secret agenda to gradually morph her music taste, and to have a new concert-going pal. Get this: it’s working, and I thank Laura Marling for putting on a great show that we were lucky enough to enjoy.
Laura Marling: Website | Facebook | Soundcloud
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