English folk singer Laura Marling released her sixth album, Semper Femina, in March. With a title taken from a quote from Virgil’s Aeneid (“varium et mutabile semper femina,” which translates to “woman is ever a fickle and changing thing”), the album explores themes of femininity and female relationships, and was met with wide critical acclaim as her most mature, affecting work to date. For the last show of her US tour for the album, Marling and her band came to the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.
On a stage bedecked with flowers and a backdrop covered in mystical-looking symbols, Marling opened the show with the opening track and lead single from the album, “Soothing,” and proceeded to play six more of the nine tracks from the record. Her five piece backing band – guitarist Simon Ribchester, bassist Nick Pini, drummer Matt Ingram, and backing singers sisters Emma and Tamsin Topolski – filled out the sound while leaving Marling at the forefront.
But it was after those first seven songs, when the band left the stage for Marling to do a solo set, that she was at her most captivating. She started the set off with an unreleased song that she had written for a London stage adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart by Robert Icke. This was followed by “Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)” and “What He Wrote” from her 2010 album I Speak Because I Can, a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “For the Sake of the Song,” and one more song from the latest album, “Wild Once,” before being rejoined by the Topolski sisters for “Daisy” from 2015’s Short Movie.
The rest of the band returned to the stage for several more songs, including “How Can I” (also from Short Movie), “Sophia” (from 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know), and “Once” (from 2013’s Once I Was An Eagle). Marling took a moment to introduce the band members and explain that she doesn’t do encores before launching into the final song of the night, “Rambling Man” (from I Speak Because I Can).
The show was opened by Los Angeles folk rockers Valley Queen, whose debut EP Destroyer was released in March on the same day as Semper Femina.