I will say this now: this will go down as one the best gigs of the year certainly one of the finest Vivid concerts I have seen.
It is hard to fathom that Laura Marling is still only 27 years old. She has six top-notch albums under her belt, a keen poetic sensibility to her lyrics and hugely commanding voice. Her arsenal was unleashed to full effect during her show at the Opera House concert hall.
The tone was set from the beginning with the slow, sensual, Soothing, pulling the crowd to the edge of their seats. There we remained for most of the evening as Marling and the band worked their way through her latest release, Semper Femina (latin for ‘always women’). The new album is a reflection on human relationships from a female perspective. Her lyrics are highly economical, but when sung they blossom into a life of their own. For example, on Always this Way, she laments:
It’s so hard to say
Is it always this way
Must every heart break
Like a wave on the bay
The delivery was in every way heartbreaking.
On a stage adorned with flowers and vines, Marling was supported by two back-up vocalists (Emma and Tamsin Topolski), guitars (Simon Ribchester) and drums (Matt Ingram). Together, the band brought alive Marling’s songs without ever overpowering them, or her. In particular, the Topolski sisters created some gorgeous harmonies throughout the evening. My plus one, himself a musician, was very impressed by Marling’s guitar work and the band in general. At times, the set felt like they were playing in a living room, and at other stages, sounded like a full five-piece outfit worthy of playing on grand stages.
Marling went solo during the middle of the set as if to purposefully highlight her impeccable guitar fingerpicking skills. Goodbye England (covered in Snow) and Wild Fire were other standouts across the second half of the set. These numbers showcased her uncanny ability to weave storytelling, poetry and music into one piece of work.
After 90 minutes, Marling announced her last song. She stated that it was band policy not to perform an encore. I guess like much of her music, she prefers efficiency over extravagance.
On the back of this performance, I want to say that Laura Marling is at the height of her powers. But I have a hunch that I will live to regret these words next time she tours down under.
Khanh grew up in Hoi An, a UNESCO Heritage listed village in Central Vietnam. He migrated with his family to Australia when he was 9. He is an academic, music lover, sports lover and a former table tennis (not ping-pong!) champion. Follow him Instagram on @ironandwhiskey.
Laura Marling’s latest album, Semper Femina is available now.