The word ‘concert’ means different things to different people. For some it evokes dinner jackets and not clapping between movements; for others, jumping up and down in a stadium, desperately trying to spot the band through a sea of blinking smartphones. But Secret Cinema’s latest brainchild, dubbed Secret Music, is something else entirely: its inaugural production brings Laura Marling’s new album to life and places you right at its core.
Stepping into the grounds of a grand Victorian hospital in East London, transformed for the night into a 1920s hotel, you’re left to explore its various rooms, with their eclectic and unfailingly interesting occupants, at your leisure. I won’t reveal too much, for fear of being blacklisted from future performances, but highlights included croquet on the front lawn, a warm-up act in the chapel and even a psychological evaluation in an upstairs bedroom.
The assembled guests were eventually summoned to the ballroom, where Marling took to the stage. Her enchanting voice and disjointed melodies were completely at home in the ethereal world conjured up by Secret Music. ‘I hope you had an …interesting evening,’ she said as she finished, looking genuinely unsure as to what we’d make of it. But she needn’t have worried. Musicians are having to focus more and more on live performance as sales of recordings dwindle and, if this kind of innovation is the result, it’s a shift we should all get behind. The only problem is the standard it sets; a concert without croquet is suddenly a concert not worth attending.