After visiting the ATM (Why can I never remember that the Metro is cash only?), I grabbed a Lagunitas IPA, and settled in against the back wall next to the sound booth to impatiently wait for Laura Marling and her band to take the stage. I fell in love with Marling’s sweltering voice and compelling song writing back in 2013, with the release of her third record, Once I Was an Eagle. Since then, I have listened to the album about a million times, and was equally impressed by her latest release in March of this year, Semper Femina, which translates as “always a woman.” To the crowd’s delight, Marling kicked off the show with “Soothing.” The spooky vocal harmonies and cutting lyrics of Semper Femina’s first track coaxed and enchanted listeners, as Marling’s enigmatic presence cast a spell over the audience. Without hesitation, the songstress carried on through most of the track list of Semper Femina, plucking and cooing with complete grace and stillness. It was as if Marling was in her own world as she sang into the bright spotlight. During “Wildfire,” she acknowledged the audience and broke into a smile while the crowd cheered as she sang, “You always say you love me most when I don’t know I’m being seen. Well maybe someday when God takes me away, I’ll understand what the fuck that means.”
Her whole vibe is lovely yet tragic, sophisticated yet raw. The band matched her intensity and the backup singers blew me away. I was curious as to how they would represent the string parts for “The Valley” live, but the vocalists matched the depth of the strings perfectly, watching Marling for every breath and lift in the melody. For me, the highlight of the show was when Marling went solo and played “Once I Was an Eagle.” Her voice quivered and growled with quick vibrato and crisp consonants and chills ran up my arms as she sang, “I will not be a victim of romance. I will not be a victim of circumstance. Chance or circumstance or romance, or any man who could get his dirty little hands on me.”
Marling was curt yet friendly with the crowd, and joked about her love for Chicago while calling out Chicago Music Exchange for not featuring women on their Instagram account. “How many of you are women out there?” she asked the crowd. “They are missing out on a whole market of people.” At one point she did a “facts” session with her band where they shared interesting and silly facts, one of which was that Meatloaf song, “I Won’t Do That,” was about using a strap on.
After they played “Ramblin Man,” off of her 2010 record, I Speak Because I Can, Marling and her band announced that was the last song of the night–they don’t believe in encores. Although the night ended abruptly, it seemed to me that Marling’s charm still lingered in the venue. So, I ran up to the stage to grab a set list in a bid to extend the magic, but instead settled for a picture of one that was given to another fan—and then was quickly told to “head out.” Just like that, the spell was broken.