Laura Marling - TLA, Philadelphia, 5/18/2017; Marling's Semper Femina Tour Stopped On South Street, Valley Queen Opened

Laura Marling played the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) on South Street Friday, May 18th. The show may not have sold out, but Marling drew a good size crowd of her faithful. Marling began her set by doing seven consecutive songs from her new album, Semper Femina.

Often when the artist has a new album the audience sits politely through the new stuff waiting for the old favorites that they came to hear. Judging by the crowd reaction to Marling's new material, I was certainly not alone in coming to the show specifically to hear tracks from Semper Femina. She returned to the album later in the set for a total of eight out of its nine songs. The only one off the new album that she didn't play is "Nouel".

Over the course of six albums, Marling has perfected a rather unique style of talk-singing. The songs on Semper Femina are mostly more singing than talking, and most include her band. At the TLA, her touring band was excellent, consisting of musicians who played on the record, Simon Ribchester on guitar, Nick Pini on double bass and Matt Ingram on drums. Marling also had two backup singers, Tamsin Topolski and Emma Topolski. I'd never seen Marling perform with backing vocalists, but the addition was really nice.

After those first seven songs, Marling played solo acoustic on the next three, dipping back into Once I Was An Eagle for "Pray for Me". She followed that with a Townes Van Zandt cover "For The Sake Of The Song". Next, she played "Wild Once" which was one of my favorite tracks from Semper Femina; this was perhaps the highlight of the show for me. It is most unusual to hear any form of a regional accent in a singer, however in "Wild Once" Marling sounds thoroughly British, and that is one of the things I love about the song.

The Topolski sisters returned to the stage to accompany Marling on "Daisy", a quasi-rarity from the Short Movie album. Originally only available on the vinyl version, "Daisy" was contained on a bonus 7" single. Subsequently, Short Movie has been reissued in a "Director's Cut" deluxe edition with four bonus tracks. These tracks are essential for fans, two of them are alternate versions of songs on the album, although you've never heard Marling rock out as much as she does on these two tracks. The other two are the songs from that bonus 7" vinyl, "David" and "Daisy". If you already got the Short Movie album, the bonus tracks are available separately at iTunes.

Staying with Short Movie, the band returned to the stage as Marling played "How Can I". "Sophia" was mostly solo acoustic then the band joined in for a high intensity ending that sounded terrific. After "Once" (from Once I Was An Eagle), Marling gave her "no encore" policy explaining that if you wanted an encore, that was the last song and the next will be the encore. If not, she continued, this will be my last song, and with that she played "Rambling Man" from I Speak Because I Can, closing the show with her oldest song of the night.

Many thanks to the TLA for the lighting and the sound. Thanks also to Beverly Kates for the camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Watch "Wild Once"

Setlist: Click linked songs to watch video
01. Soothing
02. Wild Fire
03. The Valley
04. Don't Pass Me By
05. Always This Way
06. Next Time
07. Nothing, Not Nearly
08. Pray For Me
09. For The Sake Of The Song (Townes Van Zandt cover)
10. Wild Once
11. Daisy
12. How Can I
13. Sophia
14. Once
15. Rambling Man

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Opening the show was Valley Queen, a group that front woman Natalie Carol describes as an "L.A. based California soul/psychedelic country band." With Carol playing guitar and singing lead, her band consisted of Shawn Morones on guitar, Neil Wogensen on bass, and Gerry Doot on drums. Their debut EP was released earlier this year and contains five tracks, six if you use their Bandcamp page. Their seven song set was warmly received by the TLA crowd.

About Valley Queen, The Village Voice said, "...Carol has stayed true to her roots while embracing the psychedelia of California rock--and making some damn good music along the way." Check out their TLA performance in the following videos.

Watch "Gems and Rubies"

Setlist - Click linked songs to watch video
01. Carnival
02. In My Place
03. Hold On You
04. Stars Align
05. My Man
06. Gems & Rubies
07. Ride

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