Semper Femina, Laura Marling’s sixth studio offering, is named after a phrase from a line of Latin poetry that translates, somewhat, to “woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing”.
Marling may have exhibited a changeable thing at her Sydney Opera House show, but she was far from fickle. From the opening notes of ‘Soothing’, the audience was stunned into obedient silence as the power of her voice filled the Concert Hall. The control displayed as she shifted registers showed an artist buoyed by confidence as she took command of her craft.
Marling’s presence initially seemed slightly disconnected but seemed to loosen up mid-set as the band left the stage. Her impressively dexterous guitar work was the only thing left to back her resonant vocals. Marling’s dry humour broke through as she introduced ‘Mary Stuart’ as “a song I wrote for a play about two queens trying to kill each other. That’s it.” It was beautifully juxtaposed with the emotionally intense ‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’.
A high point came when Marling brought backing singers Emma and Tamsin Topolski back on stage to perform ‘Daisy’, a B-side from 2015’s Short Movie, the voices of the three singers blending together in delightful harmony to create a warming intimacy.
With a setlist that leaned heavily on the stellar Semper Femina, the band wound its way through the intricate tapestries of ‘The Valley’ and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, even letting rough edges shine through on the rockier cuts ‘Wild Fire’ and ‘Nothing, Not Nearly.’ The band had clearly ironed out any touring kinks and was in top form, bouncing off each other and clearly revelling in the acoustics of such a venue.
Being the last show of the tour, Marling’s initial disconnect could be excused. The band made up for it with an enjoyable long-form banter piece that revealed how close they all were.
With no encore, closer ‘Rambling Man’ made sure the crowd left satisfied yet hungry for the next encounter. It’s clear that next time we meet it will be on Marling’s terms. And if tonight was anything to go by, we’re perfectly happy with that.
Laura Marling played the Sydney Opera House on Monday June 12. Photos by Prudence Upton