The Union chapel is the heart of North London’s music and comedy scene whose stage has been graced by legends such as Tom Jones, Amy Winehouse and Elton John. Like many venues across the UK the existence of this venue has been threatened by the Covid-19 lockdown period preventing it opening its doors to the general public. Their fundraising goal of £100,000 emphasises the harsh reality of the amount of money needed to run venues in the centre of London during this period. Many artists have come out in support of the venue in recent weeks including Frank Carter.
Tonight, the venues stage is graced once again by Laura Marling but this time performing to an empty venue. The audience is on the other side of a camera in what might be the future of live music (at least for the time-being!). The aim of this livestream is to raise money for the venue to prevent its closure.
Laura Marling released her seventh album ‘Song for Our Daughter’ on the 10th April 2020. The album had been set for release in August 2020 but was released early, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking on this on her social media she said she “saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best provide some sense of union”. Like many other artists Marling was forced to cancel all of her tour dates intended to promote the album, so this is one of the first opportunities she has had perform these new songs to a live audience.
The venue itself is a stunning 19th century chapel in Compton Terrace, Islington. In the dying of the summer light the stained-glass windows cast beams of light across the church giving the whole thing a gospel feeling. The silence of the church is deafening in this case and brings a melancholic feeling as a building that had previously brought so much life now stands empty.
Marling sets off with the opening suite from her third album ‘Once I Was an Eagle’: ‘Take the Night Off, ‘I Was an Eagle’, ‘You Know’ and ‘Breathe’, a quartet of songs that she frequently performs in succession. Although I had my doubts about the future of live music online, Marling’s unique style translates seamlessly in the new digital setting.
Choosing to perform with only her voice and guitar this creates a level of intimacy at her live performances that separates itself from just streaming the album. The acoustics of the Union Chapel amplify and complement her voice and make you feel as though you are in the room. The performance was also an opportunity for Marling to perform pieces from ‘Song for Our Daughter’, highlights of which were ‘The End of the Affair’, ‘Alexandra’ and ‘Held Down’.
Laura Marling demonstrates her skill as a performer with virtuosic guitar and vocals that are light but filled with vibrato. With only one minor hitch in the performance near the end of the live stream Marling finishes the performance on a high.