Birmingham Cathedral (2011)
There is something ethereal almost spiritual about petite folk singer Laura Marling, so it’s appropriate her “Ring the Bells Tour” was played in cathedrals up and down the country, ending in Birmingham.
However, Brum Cathedral is arguably the worst place to hold such a concert, certainly for the third of her fans who were consigned to the balconies which had the most uncomfortable pews and restricted views. In fact if you were not in the front row of the balconies and you sat down, you couldn’t see the performance at all.
Also they have had the whole tour to deal with the problems of setting up sound in buildings which were not designed to stage such events. However, the sound crew in Birmingham seem to have overlooked the fact people up in the balconies needed to hear the singer.
The first two songs were almost inaudible due to poor sound engineering which was annoying considering the audience had to wait around 40 minutes between the support act and Marling appearing on stage, while the crew tested and tweaked the sound system.
This detracted from the performance of Marling who is a fantastic musician and singer and is a cross between the high-noted clarity of Joni Mitchell and the power and emotion of Eva Cassidy. She was on stage for just over an hour and performed such haunting songs as Goodbye England, Night Terror, New Song and Night after Night.
Rather arrogantly, she made it clear at the penultimate song, Rambling Man, there was only going to be All My Rage, as her encore. Marling is an amazing talent but it would be no surprise if some of the people who had paid more than £20 per ticket, none of which mentioned the restricted or - in some cases - completely blocked view, felt a little let down.