I’m calling it here. Laura Marling will go down as one of the greats. For someone to be so prolific, accomplished, lauded and respected by fans and critics alike at the age she is, it’s a testament to how great she is in a live setting. Playing a headlining show as part of Vivid Live, the English artist had the entirety of the Sydney Opera House’s crowd in awe for the duration of her set.
Touring in support of her sixth studio album, Semper Femina, Marling and her band absolutely crushed their set and showcased the wit, lyricism and musicianship that has led her to be respected around the music world. With the majority of her set being made up of tracks from Semper Femina (roughly translated from Latin poetry as ‘woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing’), the mature crowd were drop dead silent through out much of the set. Where silence to this extent may usually not be a great thing, in this instance, it not only showed the undying attention the crowd was giving Marling, but it also highlighted the magic she was performing not only on the stage, but also within the crowd’s ears.
Going into the show having loved the entirety of her discography, I was still warming to the newer tunes I knew she was going to showcase. How quickly this changed. The haunting and slightly off putting “Soothing” opened the night, followed quickly by “Wild Fire”, which evidently was the only song to feature a swear through out the night (never has the word fuck been said with so much eloquence and earnestness). The absolutely lovely “The Valley” was proceeded by Marling introducing herself to the crowd and dropping a little bit of a humblebrag about playing the Opera House again.
The mildly fuller sounding “Don’t Pass Me By” was the first opportunity the band had to showcase their ability, while “Always This Way” and its use of double bass was an early highlight. One thing you do notice about Marling is her continued exchanging of guitars through out the night. While a lot of acts do this to coincide with a change of song from a different album, Marling changes guitar multiple times for tracks within the same album. As a non-musician, I think this is just really cool.
Having hit the half way point of the night, you kind of got the feeling it was time to throw in a couple of older tracks. As if she was reading my obviously very transparent mind, she went acoustic for the extremely underrated “Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)”. Playing solo, this will forever be my favourite Laura Marling song, if not one of my favourite songs of all time. Its simplicity, vocals and storytelling just made you want to go live in the winter of England (In saying this, I’ve experienced late summer/early autumn of England – it was shit).
With setlist appearances made from “What He Wrote”, the brilliant “Daisy”, and “Salinas”, you got a great feeling of the stages Marling has gone through as a musician through out much of her career. While it would have been great if she’d thrown it all the way back to her earliest of tracks, you were still thankful she covered what she did.
Breaking up the night with a little game of fact or fiction (where she had to guess which story of her band mates was a fallacy), it showed another side to Marling that you kind of didn’t expect. With little chat through out the show (as well as the previous two times I’d seen her), she has created a slightly enigmatic persona that accompanies her on stage. This unexpected humour and story time was a great addition to the set.
Closing on another favourite in “Rambling Man”, the entire crowd were left wanting more. Laura Marling met the expectations I’d had of her, but delivered so much more. For 80 minutes she was the focal point of the sold out crowd’s attention. It was great. She was great. She’ll be one of the greats; if she isn’t already.
Photo credit: Prudence Upton