The Albert Hall witnesses a heart-breakingly soulful performance from folk darling Laura Marling, as she proudly shows off material from her new album Semper Femina
24th April at Albert Hall
Just two short days after the release of her new album Semper Femina, Laura Marling steps on a stage littered in greenery and floral arrangements in Manchester’s Albert Hall. Eagerly anticipated, this show quickly sold out, and it is clear to see the passion held for Marling’s music new and old from both the audience and the artist. Marling’s musical style has certainly varied over her career, as her set boasts the clear influence of genres ranging from folk and americana to rock and soul.
Marling spends the first half of her performance methodically working through Semper Femina probably a good idea seeing as most of the audience would not have even heard it in full many times beforehand. The singer herself stumbled over new track ‘Always This Way’, giggling along with the band but encouraged to continue by audience support.
First single ‘Soothing’ is even bigger and better live, boasting rich harmonies, whilst ‘Wild Fire’ is moulded into a more soulful, guitar-rich version of its recording, omitting the single’s signature snapping drum. ‘Nothing Not Nearly’ particularly stands out with growling electric guitar, and Marling’s accompanying snarl cements the bitter irony that “nothing matters more than love”.
Whilst 2015’s Short Movie doesn’t get much of a look-in, Marling opts for material from her older works A Creature I Don’t Know and I Speak Because I Can, proving popular choices, particularly in the case of ‘Sophia’ from the former album. A slow and methodical ballad to begin with, the song builds up into a country-esque hoedown that soon has the audience whistling and dancing along.
For the most part, the set is supported by a full five-piece band, adding exciting depth to songs that could have been stripped back, such as ‘Don’t Pass Me By’. The heavier drums may have not fit as well as the sputtering recorded version on Semper Femina, but they certainly intensified the song. Marling and her band have clearly bonded over the short space of rehearsal and the tour so far, as she introduces each of them with a fond smile, challenging them to come up with a “fact of the day” whilst on tour.
Marling introduces a solo acoustic section with a mischievous “it’s just you and me now”, and proceeds to wow an already enamoured audience with her stunning vocal performances. Old favourite ‘Made By Maid’ and newer ‘Nouel’ are gentle songs, backed only by Marling’s deftly picked guitar and the hush of the audience.
Marling does not end her shows with an encore, as most other bands in large venues do, and instead deliberately dedicates her final song ‘Rambling Man’ — a song never off her setlist — as what she would use as an encore song. Honestly, this feels refreshing for a cynical someone (myself) who gets quite tired of the saga of a band walking off and on stage just to get an ego boost. The audience also appear respectful of this decision, as Marling has clearly given her all in this soulful set, and demonstrated that she’s not yet ready to put down the guitar.