British folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling performed at Albert Hall Manchester on the 12th March 2017.
Review by Jane Howkins.
Photography by Derek Robertson.
It takes some courage for an artist to play new songs at a concert, especially when the album has only been out for a couple of days (and in the case of some of Marling’s other gigs on this tour, her latest album hadn’t even been released on the day of the show). So for an artist to play most of her new album live when the album has only been out for two days, with the bulk of the first half of the set featuring songs from said album, is a very courageous thing indeed. It’s a good thing that Marling’s new release, Semper Femina, is a fantastic record, as this could have turned out very badly indeed.
Instead, the crowd watched on in awe, and whilst it was clear that not everyone had managed to listen to the new record yet, there was very much a sense of respect for what Marling was doing, with the songs still catchy enough for the casual listener to enjoy. Marling herself was polite as always, making small talk with the audience at certain intervals, with jokes from herself and her backing band making the gig feel extremely intimate. She’s got a bit of a reputation for sometimes seeming aloof on stage, but that seems to more of a shyness issue rather than anything else, and when playing her songs, Marling is nothing more than captivating in her entirety.
The one small issue we did find was that the setlist didn’t cover Marling’s background as we would have liked it to have done. First album Alas, I Cannot Swim wasn’t touched upon at all, and her other four albums in between that one and the latest one only had a couple of songs played off them, if that. Next time it would be great to hear a little more variety in the setlist, but otherwise the song selection was still great. A particular favourite of ours was I Speak Because I Can, which felt absolutely joyful when played during the solo section of the set. There’s a wonderful crescendo at the end of the song, and despite it being performed solo, this came off very nicely, giving goosebumps to all watching.
All in all a stunning set, however next time it would be nice to have a slightly more varied setlist.