The Roundhouse is a fantastic venue and I was very excited to see Laura Marling play there, almost exactly five years to the day that I last saw her, just after the release of her third album.
Marling is now six albums deep, which is a remarkable feat when you think about the fact that she is still only 27, making the word ‘overachiever’ sound like an understatement. Having so many albums to your name does produce its own set of problems though, especially when it comes to picking a good setlist for a tour.
Marling tackled this issue in a business-like manner, powering through the first six songs of her set, which were all taken from her new album, Semper Femina, and then informing us, almost apologetically, that she would just do one more new song and then take it back to her other five albums. The album had only been out for a week so I’d only listened to it a little, but it’s very good, and live, it was melodically beautiful; mellow but infused with passion. In performance, Marling is a fully-transformed, blossoming version of how she was in 2012, exuding a commanding presence and a more conversational singing style than you hear on the records.
I saw something online asking fans to submit their favourite songs for Marling to play (I definitely didn’t select the entirety of the first three albums) so I’m not sure how much that influenced her setlist choices, but to address the elephant in the room, I was really sad that she didn’t play any of her first album, at all, with Short Movie also omitted in its entirety. It’s my favourite (maybe tied with I Speak Because I Can) but in a way I was impressed that she didn’t feel the need to jump back and lean on her best-known material. A bit of ‘Ghosts’ would’ve gone down a treat, though.
My favourite moment of the evening came halfway through, with Marling’s band leaving the stage for her to sing ‘What He Wrote’, with the audience watching silently, often a sign of a vocal so sublime that no one wants to sing along in case they can’t hear. The simple but poignant ‘Nouel’ followed, and it was so great to hear ‘I Speak Because I Can’ in such a pared-back format, within the amazing acoustics of the Roundhouse.
Marling’s lyrics are so astute and intelligent that even the songs I didn’t know, like ‘Daisy’, were really enjoyable and the gig closed, with no encore, on ‘Rambling Man’, where it seemed like the whole room was filled with the joyful lyrics of the song. I can’t wait for her to go on tour again.