Laura Marling and her talented band presented her latest album, Semper Femina, with polished showmanship.
Laura Marling performs with understated ferocity. For most of her performance, she stands in one place, singing to the balcony, her right foot tucked behind her left as she picks away at her guitar. The simplicity of her stage presence allows for the complexity and fierceness of her lyrics to take center stage. And that’s not to say that her performance style is boring or lacking; merely that, for her and her incredible band, the music is most important.
She’s touring to support her latest album, Semper Femina, a meditation and manifesto on womanhood. The setup of the stage had what could be referred to as the feminine touch, with garlands of leaves and flowers on the drum kit and mic stands, Marling herself goddess-like in a billowing red dress. The first half of the show focused on Semper Femina, with Marling and her band going, with a few diversions, straight through the track list, before playing their way through some old favorites.
The set started with “Soothing,” Semper Femina’s first single. Marling’s voice was lovelily untamed, but the true star of the song in any iteration is the bass line. Bassist Nick Pini’s performance and the grittiness of his playing shone in particular. Marling and her band played through “Wild Fire,” “The Valley,” and “Don’t Pass Me By;” backing vocalists Emma and Tamsin Topolski’s stunning voices added depth. “Nothing, Not Nearly” became a powerful ballad as Marling crooned from the stage.
Marling, who is trained in classical guitar, brings a nimbleness and fluidity to her guitar-playing that comes across on recordings, but was truly remarkable in person. Her vocal control and her ability to manipulate her voice was also evident. Her vibrato was wild, a lovely burbling—a classical sound reminiscent of Joan Baez—while in some songs, like “Nothing, Not Nearly,” she didn’t use it at all. At other times, such as in “Don’t Pass Me By,” she employed a Bob Dylan-esque talk-singing.
After the run of Semper Femina tracks, the band left the stage and left Marling to it. Any audience noise fell to a palpable hush. Marling alone with her guitar was mesmerizing as she played a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “For the Sake of the Song” and her delicate song of rumination, “Wild Once.” The band returned to play a string of back catalog hits, such as “Daisy” (in which Laura, Emma, and Tamsin’s three-part harmony was nothing short of stunning), “Sophia,” and a jubilant “Rambling Man.”
When Laura Marling left the stage, she left for good, declaring to the audience that encores simply are not her thing. It was a fitting end to a show filled with songs of women’s stories, and desires, and decisions. Laura Marling came, she sang, and she left on her own terms, and anyone in the audience was lucky to witness it.