LAURA MARLING ★★★★
The Forum, June 11
“Woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing.”
Thus reads the rough translation of ‘Semper femina’, an expression Laura Marling borrowed from Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid for the title of her latest album.
She has carried that line with her: literally, for a decade, in the form of a tattoo on her leg (albeit abbreviated to “Always a woman”).
Marling may be more constant than fickle, but is undoubtedly changeable.
While still in her 20s, she is no ingenue. Over close to a decade of visiting these shores she has grown immeasurably as a singer and songwriter, and appeared each time as if in a different guise.
A Mercury Prize and multiple Brit Award winner, she has shrugged off the inevitable comparisons (to Joni Mitchell, especially) and forged her own forthright style.
Fronting the Forum on Sunday night, marvelling at the stars twinkling on the restored venue’s ceiling, she brought a bigger band and more bombastic sound.
Garlanded with greenery, she and her band – drummer Matt Ingram, guitarist Simon Ribchester and bassist Nick Pini, as well as backing singers, sisters Emma and Tamsin Topolski – led us through new tracks from Semper Femina, from ’90s-influenced fuzzy guitar pop to twangy 70s-style Americana and more trad English folk.
The band’s thumping bass and drums and gorgeous, warm harmonies were at their biggest and best on the West Coast-drenched sound of Once, from 2013’s Once I Was An Eagle, and her show-stopping finale Rambling Man, off 2010’s I Speak Because I Can.
Yet Marling is at her most affecting with just her exquisite voice and an acoustic guitar, as on the stunning Goodbye England (Covered in Snow), making every English expat in the audience (and even those who’ve never been) yearn for the mother country.