Words by Mark Spero
At only 27 years old, Laura Marling has an astonishing six studio albums, the most recent of which, Semper Femina, explores the details and complexities of relationships between women. She spent last Sunday night at the Fillmore, serenading a packed crowd of devoted fans, many of whom seemed to have followed Marling through the entirety of her brilliant career. Marling is soft-spoken, preferring to sing her powerful songs than speak during her set, and the crowd seemed happy to just listen to her play her new album and selections from past albums.
The show opened with Los Angeles natives Valley Queen, a rock band reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, with shredding guitars like Tom Petty. They are fronted by Natalie Carol, who is a force at center stage, leading the band in a loud and raucous take on ’80s rock and roll. The band primarily played songs off of their new EP, Destroyer, and in a live setting, their carefully produced songs come to life with a much more raucous sound — many people in the crowd who didn’t know the band quickly seemed drawn to the roaring vocals and rowdy guitar. They seem to be finding their place in an often crowded genre, and their obvious skill makes it interesting to imagine where they will be in the next couple years after opening for stars like Marling.
During Valley Queen’s set, I could see that Marling’s instruments and mic stands were covered in green vines and white flowers, and the back of the stage was covered in long white flags covered in gold symbols from her past album art. Laura Marling emerged from the same scene that produced Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons, and her sound seems birthed from classic folk artists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. Her intricate guitar backs her high-flying harmonies, and after hearing the vocal stunts on her album, it is incredible to see her perform them live. She began her set with songs from her most recent album, like “The Valley,” “Wild Fire,” and “Next Time,” before briefly pausing to say hello to her audience. In a past interview Marling stated that she likes “the idea of speaking only when it’s strictly necessary,” and this is obvious by how little she talks with the audience. I was a bit surprised to hear some of the more elaborate pieces of her album tracked behind the band, and as much of the music world has been enraptured by digital music, Marling has dived deeper into analog instruments, like her growing string section. Her band was wonderful, and brought new life to the album.
Her audience seemed entirely enraptured by her presence, and it is easy to see why. Marling combines luminous songwriting with dynamic vocals. It is also important to note that her most recent album and much of her work apart from the album, like her new podcast, has focused on investigating the lives of women, often as entirely separate from men. I am happy to these topics explored by such a gifted musician, and whenever I think I’ve grown tired of a Laura Marling song, it pops back into my head.