Cultivating great musical taste

Laura Marling at the Grand Eagle Hotel 15/6/13

The Grand Eagle Hotel is a temporary attraction in Hackney, London. It was created purely for a run of live shows concocted by Laura Marling and Secret Cinema and has been fabulously adorned.

That first step into the hotel, surrounded by swathes of guests dressed in 1920’s style clothing. Such an effort was made to fit into the era and it was all the more incredible for the short notice that was given. The tickets went on sale towards the end of May, and just over a week ago the details of the even were revealed, launching Secret Music.

Not only was the hotel opulent but the guests attending equalled it with their costumes. Walking towards the building it was obvious the amount of effort had been taken to bring this story to life. The garden was set up with croquet and actors already had a game underway, it was if they had been lifted straight of history and placed in the middle of Hackney.

When actually stepping into the hotel all memories of the ‘modern’ world disappear and you become completely immersed in the fantasy they have provided. Mr and Mrs Undine are there to greet you and behind them are a mountain of flowers that have been gifted onto them by all the guests. Beyond that is the staircase with plants winding themselves around the banisters. There is music coming from the Billiards Room where many guests are gathering for food and entertainment.

Roaming the corridors was a waif-like woman dressed in red. she haunted the rooms as if an apparition. She threw a tantrum as guests drew self-portraits and entered a rather violent dance with one of the other actors. In fact, this couple could be spotted all over the venue causing a lot of commotion amongst the guests.

Just down the corridor from their favourite spot was the chapel. In it were people playing instrumental music and there were pews for guests to sit in. Sitting with one all to herself, dressed in white, was Laura Marling. She was surrounded by people and didn’t seem phased by the attention she might warrant.

In fact, she spent most if the night floating through the hotel from room to room, almost a spectre. When she wasn’t listening to Eddie Berman with the rest of us she could be seen popping up in various locations. One such appearance led to her and Berman singing their cover of Dancing in the Dark on the first floor landing overlooking the audience on the ground floor. Their voices compliment each other extremely well and the cover was one of the best things of the night.

Right at the very end everyone was herded into the ballroom, the surrealism was maintained especially with the mist getting thicker as you enter the basement. With a quick trip outside and into a separate building it’s finally time to see Laura Marling in earnest.

She starts with tracks from Once I was an Eagle, as is to be expected, and sticks mainly to the track list. She went from Take the Night Off through to Master Hunter, all of them absolutely amazing live. Those of you who have seen Marling before will be used to seeing her with a band around her as support, but not this time. Aside from Berman and another man joining her for a few of the tracks her set was completely stripped back. As with the rest of the night it was just her and her audience.

Breathe was just as much of a highlight on the night as it is on the album, it remains an amazing track it it’s good to know that it’s performed so amazingly. There were a few deviations from the album, What He Wrote and Sophia made an appearance as did her trademark awkwardness.

Little Bird, another Once I was an Eagle song, popped up towards the end and was another highlight. There are some songs which are pretty damn good recorded, but so much better live and this is one of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if it joins the likes of Ghosts and Rambling Man and becomes a fan favourite.

Overall the night was a huge success. The buildup was absolutely perfect to the gig and while the actual premise was amazing it was all about the music. It was definitely something special to be part of and I look forward to anything else Secret Music do.

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