Review: Experiences From My First Ticketed Online Gig With Laura Marling
It’s the rebel in me that makes me not want to support this new wave of online concert streams. A defiant voice in my head keeps telling me: “Screw the new normal. There is no such thing as a new normal. There’s only normal and abnormal.”
At the same time, artists I love currently have very limited options for performing in front of an audience.
Certain European countries have started to allow gigs for up to 500 people. Spain just hosted its first 2,000-plus capacity gig, but due to travel restrictions, it’ll be some time before international artists will be able to travel across Europe again.
The UK is a bit behind in its reopening plans, so, for now, the only opportunity to see the incredible Laura Marling perform live, was to buy a ticket for her Union Chapel performance in London, June 6, which was streamed live on YouTube.
A few takeaways:
It felt weird not to get ready to go out. Putting on nice clothes, putting on some aftershave, heck, maybe even oiling the beard (for a Laura Marling gig I certainly would have) – all those things got neglected.
I could have still kept up the facade, of course, but there’s also something super cozy about just crashing on the couch in a hoody and flicking on the TV two minutes before the gig starts.
In other words, some of the rituals that are part of going out to see a show, become redundant. Some people love those rituals, others cannot be arsed. No definite judgements there.
My partner and I poured a drink, we took the bottles – Whisky in my case, Disaronno in hers – with us, and never had to leave our seats for a refill. We also went crazy on the snacks and concocted an ice-cream cake combination you won’t find at a venue, not even in the fanciest VIP lounge.
That’s how we settled in.
And then she appears. Laura Marling on a tastefully decorated stage in a beautiful venue, London’s 900-capacity Union Chapel.
We reluctantly give in to the urge to applaud, laughing out loud while we do so. There really is no point if she can’t hear us.
YouTube offers you a “react” button, but that’s just weird. After all, Laura Marling isn’t standing there, watching a screen, getting amped up by the amount of hearts floating across it.
There’s no exchange of energy, that’s just a bummer we have to live with during online concerts.
To the left and right of the “react” button are countless more buttons with letters on them. I scroll over with the mouse and YouTube gives me the option to “hide crowd.”
Which brings me to one thing about the current crisis I really take issue with: this trend to sugarcoat the current situation with euphemisms. There is no crowd. Period. We’re also not “together at home”.
You can tell by Marling’s lyrics that she’s a no-bullshit human being. As such, it wasn’t surprising that she didn’t try and build a relationship with her anonymous audience. To her, it would have amounted to speaking to a bunch of cold, dead camera lenses.
There is some excitement in knowing you’re watching a live show, that this isn’t yet another YouTube video accessible on demand.
But let’s not kid ourselves: you’re missing out on all the anticipation, which is often so thick in the air just before the artist gets on stage, it feels like you can touch it. There’s no discharge of that energy the moment the first note hits.
But there is also no constant murmur, which I appreciated especially because we were listening to Laura Marling, who makes every word and every note count.
I’ve been to so many quieter gigs by songwriters in small venues, where there’s just constant chit chat in-between songs, and often times during the song, which makes it really hard to get into the mood and understand what’s being said.
That wasn’t a problem during Laura Marling’s stream. You could hang on her every word, get lost in her beautiful melodies, marvel at her pristine voice in an absolutely undisturbed atmosphere.
It was a high-class production, filmed with multiple cameras in Ultra HD, some fixed, some moving around in the room. The audio quality was flawless, which could be seen as another advantage over the “real thing.”
I sometimes caught myself speaking out in agreement with lyrics that particularly chimed with me, like for instance “If you were mine, I’d let you live Your life.” I would never do that at a live gig.
Most of the time, however, I just listened with my eyes closed, which is exactly what I would doing at a live gig, at least during a Laura Marling show.
It was a phenomenal performance, which I would not have purchased on its own, like I used to with concert DVDs, but I definitely wanted to see the performance live.
In times when we aren’t allowed to go out to sweaty gigs in underground venues, this is certainly an alternative to a night out with your loved one(s).
But there is a big difference between seeing an artist live and standing in the same room with them – and hundreds of like-minded who share your love for the artist. This is no revelation, and it has been clear to everyone right from the day that public gatherings got banned. But I also had no idea how stark the contrast between live streamed and live live would actually be.
I am very happy that artists have at least some means of getting paid for their work, and that fans are supporting it. But I also felt myself longing hard for the day I can actually set foot in Union Chapel again, and see, smell, hear, and feel Laura Marling and all of her fans in the flesh.
There’s just no replacing the real.