The in-store took place at the tiny Rough Trade West, a tiny record shop in Notting Hill off of Portobello Road to celebrate the release of her first record, Alas I Cannot Swim. Laura performed behind the counter with just a microphone and her Gibson acoustic. She did her best to talk a bit with the audience but her shyness showed through, as she sang with her eyes downcast for most of the songs. Her eyes would occasionally drift up and look above the audience at all the posters and when the guy who was front and center, arms wrapped around his girlfriend, scrambled to silence his ringing cell phone, she smiled wide. I was right up front, just behind a slightly pungent man that took too many photographs. I could even see her fingers grey from all the guitar picking. She played six songs or so and then returned to sign some cds and singles.
As I listen to her album now, I prefer her live versions, especially of "Alas I Cannot Swim," (listen to below) a favorite that sounds a bit like its a traditional story sung in some traditional style that I can't put my finger on. Somewhat unfortunately, it is inconveniently hidden away at the end of the last track. Some album versions are a bit more elaborate compared to her stripped down versions at the in-store. Luckily, I will get to see her live again... next Monday when she performs with Noah & the Whale at ICA and in March with my free ticket included with my purchase of her song box.
Edit: I've listened to her album several times through now and I think I need to give it more praise. Listening through my headphones and not my crappy laptop speakers, the loveliness of her live performance came through in her album versions. Very nice and calm to listen to as I did my morning Econometrics problem set.
I don't really know how to write real "reviews" so I will just conclude by saying that the in-store made me feel good. A bit of tugging at heart-strings and a bit of smirking at her bashfulness. At only 18-years-old, I think Laura Marling's song-writing is amazingly mature and intelligent. I hear her single "Ghosts" has been snatched up by a mobile phone provider so perhaps she'll go the way of the Feist-Starbucks marriage and be propelled to international stardom, complete with Ipod commercial.
Music has been a bit of a savior for me here in London. I'm really lucky that I'm right here in the middle of it. Hopefully, I keep taking advantage of it all.