Birmingham, UK – 14 March 2017
Laura Marling is back with her latest album, Semper Femina, and it’s everything you could possibly want in a Laura Marling record: moving, relatable storytelling and that deep, soulful voice – not to mention musical virtuosity.
Semper Femina – latin for ‘Always a Woman’ and taken from Virgil’s poem The Aeneid – was recorded out in Los Angeles, California. Marling’s new home-away-from-home, LA’s west coast sounds pervade the overall melody that surrounds her voice and acoustic guitar. There are lots of references to women and femininity in her new songs, exploring the complex relationships between women from what she says is a “neutral perspective” and “natural relationship with [womanhood].” As she admits, she is still “unsure of [her] own femininity or masculinity.”
As always at her live shows, Marling has the power to make a room fall silent and listen, utterly speechless, because she vocalises the wisdom you cannot in that moment. It’s music that speaks to you, for you, because it’s human, it’s real, it’s lonely, heartbroken, full of sorrow, and then there’s life and its moments and the many lessons to learn. Though youthful, Marling evokes the voice of an old soul time and time again.
In her performance of new material from Semper Femina, Marling was accompanied by a full band of drums, bass, guitar and backing singers, which added an accomplished support and dimension to Marling’s voice. Every now and then, the band would leave the stage to let Marling give her songs the intimate sparkle they so deserve, which delighted most all members of the audience.
The stage, lit in subtle colourful transitional shades, was covered in flowers and vines that weaved up the microphone. Marling wore a long, white, flowing dress conjuring an image of a pure, divine goddess figure encapsulated in the male gaze while singing songs that dissect that very image of how women are observed. Marling began the set by singing the entirety of Semper Femina, with songs such as Soothing, The Valley, Don’t Pass Me By, Next Time, Wild Fire and Nouel, wherein she tells of a real-life friend she objectifies as a classic muse: “Oh Nouel, you sing so well / Sing only for me?”
Characteristically, Marling said very little between songs. Just before performing Nouel, however, she announced that that this would be the last song she played from the new album, admitting she hates it when performers only play their new stuff (to the excitement of the crowd, who were eager to hear old favourites, everything from Daisy and Don’t Ask Me Why to Once and Darkness Descends). The back catalogue went down a popular storm, particularly I Speak Because I Can, Sophia, Salinas and Rambling Man. There was no encore, in expected Marling fashion, yet she gave a delightfully, enchanting and emotive show that once again conveyed the power of her voice and lyrical genius to the public, who were left fully awe struck, mesmerised as ever.
Artist: Laura Marling