Though it might at first appear that way as she tenderly sauntered onto Band on the Wall’s somewhat cramped stage to perform ‘wanderlust’, the opening track of her new album Any Human Friend, there is certainly no timidity about Marika Hackman.
Joined by her band she launched straight into ‘the one’, a slowly crescendoing track with seething lyrics. She mentioned later that she visited her old school and performed a few songs for the students. Deadpanning the words “all you fuckers want my dick” to a bunch of cross-legged students was a slightly strange experience, but the “best day of my life,” she joked. That line is indicative of a great deal of Hackman’s music: there are no prizes for guessing what the song ‘all night’ is about, nor ‘hand solo’. Her music is unashamedly and, it must be said, hilariously, horny.
Perhaps paradoxically, the fact that her songs are so impenitent is in itself an indicator of her maturity. Her put-down of casually homophobic men in ‘boyfriend’, narrated in the lines “you came to me for entropy and I gave you all I had / he makes a better man than me so I know he won’t feel bad / it’s fine ‘cause I am just a girl “it doesn’t count” / He knows a woman needs a man to make her shout”, is thrillingly acerbic, delightfully contrasting the tempered, closer-to-affable-than-assertive voice that sings it. The song, incidentally, is endlessly quotable: “I held his girl in my hands (I know he doesn’t mind) / She likes it ‘cause they’re softer than a man’s (I like to moisturise)”.
These songs spark a smile even when making serious points, but Hackman can be fully sincere too. As well as ‘wanderlust’, she performed her first encore track ‘Cigarette’ from her 2017 album I’m Not Your Man. She succeeded in silencing the room, her tender guitar strumming beckoning the audience in, as though she is about to reveal an intimate secret.
Dressed in a white boiler suit, Hackman requested that fans sign it post-show: a self-acknowledged ploy, in part, to lure them to the merch stand, but also a unique way of commemorating her biggest tour to date.
She closes with another song from I’m Not Your Man, the brooding ‘Blahblahblah’, again lyrically ambitious, finishing with the line ‘nice and quiet, we’ll behave, I’m alright’. However, the show displayed a singer delightfully unwilling to behave, to conform, and her music was all the more captivating for it.
Whilst her setlist would possibly benefit from a few more upbeat songs like the beautifully performed ‘I’m not where you are’, her lack of any one distinct sound can only be a positive. She certainly isn’t playing a character, as a brief exchange with an excitable audience member illustrates. Presented with the bizarre, yet wonderfully Mancunian, heckle of “what did you have for breakfast?” Hackman took a moment to recall. “I had a panini,” she eventually replied, bemused, “rock ‘n’ roll”.