Laura Marling Graces Chicago @ Metro

Dusky pink lights stream over the stage at Metro Chicago, strands of white-flowered ivy coiling along the amplifiers and guitar stands of the band. At center stage, the leaves wind their way up a silver microphone to the face of Laura Marling, standing in ghostly aura as her voice trickles out along the air:

I know she stayed in town last night
Didn’t get in touch
I know she has my number right
She can’t face seeing us

“The Valley”, from Marling’s new album, Semper Femina, released this past March, streams along the arms and shoulders of the crowd. Latin for “always a woman”( taken cleverly in irony from a line of Virgil, varium et mutabile semper femina—”woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing”), the album contemplates feminine identity on both personal and societal levels, exploring relationships, self, and the implications of one’s thoughts and actions:

Perhaps she’s had too much of love
Can be a sickly thing
That’s why she mourns the morning dew
And the newness that it brings

Born in Eversley, Hampshire, Marling (now 27) began recording music around the age of 16, and has since released six solo albums. Through her career, she’s worked and toured with various musicians, including notable leads such as Johnny Flynn and Marcus Mumford. In ethereal indie-folk-rock style, Marling has established her own unique voice in cascading vocals and dappling tablature.

On stage, Laura seems to glow. Poised and airily solemn, she holds her chin high as her fingers glisten up the frets of her guitar:

She’s down there in the valley
I know she wanders there
She’s down there in the valley
I can see her golden hair

Delivered in deep verbrato and airy peaks, Semper Femina is journey of nine undulating songs backed by atonal harmonies with jarring undertones. Intimate, abrasive, reflective, and often witty, the tracks step in and out of self, shifting from third-person views to first in a manner that is both empowering and self-critical. She covers themes of innocence and guilt, time and circumstance, risk and responsibility, intention and longing, relationships and judgment, and the permanent marks our experiences leave us with.   

As the lights shift from pink to gold, they fall over the faces of the audience. A man sways to and fro. A woman closes her eyes and lets the sound wash over her:

I love you in the morning
My angel of the west
I love you in the evening
And I will do my very best

The crowd takes in Marling, but Marling takes in something else. Her eyes to the distance, she sings from somewhere felt and far away—of things that may change, of things that may always be:

I’ll do my very best.

*   *   *   *

Laura Marling performed at Metro on May 7th. You can view the tour line up and listen to/purchase  Semper Femina through Laura Marling’s website.

Stephanie Lenchard Warren
Stephanie Lenchard Warren

Stephanie Lenchard Warren is a visual artist and nonfiction writer. Her work explores finding ourselves in nature as well as the nature in ourselves.

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