Alessi's Ark and Boy & BearEdit this event
A show which involves sitting down in proper seats is always welcome, especially of a Sunday evening. Gigs in theatres are also always a nice change, particularly in one as grand as the London Palladium. Having arrived irritatingly and unsalvagably late, the amount of time Boy and Bear play before me must have numbered no more than ninety seconds. This is, unfortunately, just about enough time for me to compare them with those harmonic folk fetishists who go by the name of Fleet Foxes. That is about all I can say, other than that these Australians looked as pleased as can be to play here.
The next act to appear on the stage, complete in flowing dress and ear-to-ear smile is Alessi Laurent-Marke, alias Alessi's Ark. Miss Laurent-Marke, who sings her stuff with what must be the most pixie-ish voice imaginable, is a thoroughly charming individual. Her awkward but excited stage banter is nothing if not warming, as is the fact that between a nervous “ummmm” and the first chord of each song there is barely a breath, and similar can be said between the final chord and an oft-repeated, polite “thank you”. I think most of those present share my opinion as chuckles permeate the quieter moments.
Though she doesn't have an absolute wealth of material on which to draw, there's enough quality of composition in her first full-length – Notes From The Treehouse – and her more recent and current EP to please, if not exactly dazzle. Probably the single track most likely to encapsulate the best of Alessi's art is the sombre 'Woman' as it's disjointed rhythms and heartbroken melody resonate around the hall. There could barely be a greater chasm between the artist during song and in between songs, the flattened, distorted melodic vowel sounds disappear, as the persona suitable for children's television comes forward. No slight against the artist, but if the career in music ever fails...
Laura Marling, on the other hand, is an artist who is unlikely to need a career change any time soon, judging a) by the all-round critical reception to her second record, I Speak Because I Can and b) the abundant quality contained throughout its ten tracks. Of course, we must also mention Miss Laura's age, which is now 20 (she and Alessi were both born in 1990). The freakish maturity exhibited in her recordings so far is now reflected in a return to blonde which, from this distance and in this light is approaching what could be termed a 'grey rinse'.
An anticipatory, booming reception before a foot is set onto the stage, Marling opens with the most thumping track in her catalogue, 'Devil's Spoke'. Though it may be the weakest and arguably most undeveloped segment on her current full-length, it's the correct choice as a set and album opener. It is also better for us, with some having been sat down for hours, to be reminded of her diminutive brilliance in a snap, rather than a gradual climb.
Pacing gradually through a mixture of the past and present, partly with band and partly without. The two brand new songs that get an airing don't suggest that her third record – due later this year – will see any recession in quality and, indeed, the latter is up there with anything from either record, its composition and scales shining forth. 'Ghosts' is the track which garners the loudest reception on introduction and though it's an introduction which occurs twice after a false start, it is second only to an impressive whistling solo in 'Night Terror'.
It is also a refreshing change to see an artist who eschews the rigmarole and procession behind encores, something this place has seen plenty of. I'm with Laura and John Peel on this one, a man who wrote: “I doubt that Leonardo, having completed the work on The Last Supper, presumably to some local acclaim, would have interpreted this acclaim as a signal to paint in a few more figures.” So, tonight there is effectively no encore. And there doesn't need to be, everything that we've seen and heard in just over an hour summing up her talent perfectly.
Photo by The Queen's Hall on Flickr
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