A lot has changed since Laura Marling recorded the line "I woke up on a bench on Shepherd's Bush Green" on her first album, the Mercury-nominated Alas I Cannot Swim. She's now playing The Shepherd's Bush Empire (or O2, as it's now known) rather than sleeping on one of the nearby benches, though the whiff of pee in the venue mind remind her of the Green.

She's moved to Los Angeles, though she seems very cheerful about being back home. Unusually cheerful actually for a performer who has sometimes been quite cool on stage over the years. When she sings 'Goodbye England' there's almost a crack of emotion in her voice.

She says Shepherds Bush is looking a lot posher, and her stage banter has gone upmarket too. As she tunes one of her three guitars (she's lost her guitar technician, along with her band, as part of a general move to minimalise her life), she tells the story of a taxi driver who couldn't believe someone so young was performing at the Empire. Now a seasoned performer with four albums to her name, you forget she's still only 23. "So you're not one of those old maids who moans about their husbands leaving them?" asked the cabbie. This, just after Marling has sung a song about a husband leaving her ('I Speak Because I Can'). It gets a huge laugh from the crowd, who are in the palm of her hand.


But of course they've sold out the O2 to hear her perform songs, not tell jokes. She tears into the 15-minute four-song suite that opens her latest album, Once I Was An Eagle, with a newly-found languor in her voice (and an American drawl). The range of her voice has expanded too as she shifts from those squeaky top notes to some husky low notes, occasionally growling with real venom. Commanding her rapt audience at the centre of this grand old theatre, the performance brings to mind grainy footage of Piaf or Brel in Paris.

Her mic is fixed quite high (à la Liam Gallagher) and she frequently throws back her head, as if throwing off the inhibitions of her youth. Perhaps her next album, one song from which is aired tonight, 'One Day Soon', will put to rest the theme of growing up that has recurred so often on her previous four albums.

She's getting whoops of joy after almost every song and she's responding with genuine affection towards the audience. She shows off her guitar-playing virtuosity on an extended intro to the Spanish-influenced 'Sophia' before marching off the stage, as confidently as she marched onto it, happy it seems to be back on Shepherd's Bush Green.

Set list here.

Nick Mulvey warmed up the Shepherds Bush audience with his curious mixture of Brazilian hip-hop folk. Mulvey was one of the founding members of Portico Quartet, whose debut album, Knee-deep in the North Sea, was name-checked on Alt-J's Awesome Wave. A connoisseur of world music, Mulvey's prevailing influence in this new project is modern-day hip-hop, with no trace of the Congolese influence that informed much of his earlier work.