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'There's nothing quite like being heckled by a choirboy', declare The Leisure Society, gesturing to their audience seated in the pews of Norwich Cathedral. Tonight they are supporting Laura Marling on the fifth night of her 'When the Bell Tolls' tour of UK cathedrals, and understandably, it's all about the venue. The pressure is on for Brit Award winner Marling and co to do the building justice; for a notoriously shy performer, this is a big task.
The Leisure Society set the tone for the evening, appearing as a stripped-back version of their usual ensemble, without a drum kit or keyboard. From birdlike whistles to harmonised strings, the band fill the space beautifully, with the strains of first single 'The Last of the Melting Snow' echoing through the arches, and an acoustic cover of Erasure's 'Give a Little Respect' initiating an audience sing-along.
The evening belongs, however, to Marling herself. Aptly fitting with the name of the tour, a single bell toll announces her arrival onto the small stage, and she tears straight into the rousing, country-inspired bars of 'I Was Just a Card', the first taste from her third studio album 'A Creature I Don't Know'. Unfortunately, she is drowned out slightly by the band, and it's a struggle to hear her vocals clearly over the drums for the first few songs. It's when Marling is alone, armed with a guitar and microphone that the set really comes together. 'It's just you and me now' she purrs, before stunning the audience into silence with a haunting rendition of 'Goodbye England', followed by 'Night Terror', where she unleashes her party-trick of insanely good whistling. Experimental as ever, she then debuts a new, as yet untitled song, which shows her extraordinary growth as a lyricist since 2008's 'Alas I Cannot Swim', captivating her audience with a story of families and closed doors.
Marling's new, darker material is prominent tonight, with the bold 'Sophia' bordering on aggressive, filling the sacred surroundings with swelling banjos and angry vocals. Album closer 'All My Rage' also closes the show tonight, leaving a sense of fear hanging in the air, of this new, powerful Laura, 'with a mind so dark and skin so white'. It is clear Marling has grown into herself as an artist, and is more than a match for the grand scenery surrounding her. There could be no venue more perfect.