Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, Marika Hackman

Last Thursday, I visited the Palace Theater for a very rare
and special occasion: Laura Marling was headlining, supported by good friends
Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn. Their stop in LA was the last one with Flynn,
so ultimately the last one with such a special lineup. It was magic.

This was my first visit to the Palace Theater, and I was
glad to have assumed the building was too old to be equipped with central air
and so I did not wear a sweater. I had a seat on the mezzanine, so not the top
floor, but at any elevation it was sweltering. Two girls sitting behind me were
drinking very aromatic wine, so I can only imagine how hot they were. The
temperature did not do well to keep my excitement in check- I thought I was
going to overheat with anxious anticipation of seeing these talented musicians.

I arrived in time to hear the final two songs by Marika
Hackman, the youngest of the show’s trio. She released her debut full-length
album earlier this year, which I think might make my top list come December.
That said, I was cursing the traffic on the 101 for delaying me so much. What I
did hear was still very rewarding to catch, the first song “Animal Fear,” my
favorite from the recent record. The song impresses me on many levels of
musicianship, and the video is also a gem, featuring Marling. That night, she
was joined by another guitarist (or bassist perhaps?) and drummer, who departed
after the song, which is when Hackman took the opportunity to warn us not to
move because Johnny Flynn was on immediately afterward. She was not kidding.
Once Hackman finished her set, Johnny Flynn waltzed out onto stage, practically
running into her on her way out.

So essentially they took away the worst part of a concert:
the waiting. Maybe this is normal for some people, but I was incredulous.

Flynn was charming and blonde, and his voice was as uniquely
beautiful as ever. I am still baffled at his apparently successful acting
career, when he could just sing forever. People will always pay to hear that
voice, he’s set for life. And he could probably make enough excess money to
fund his son’s life as well, since, in case you forgot, Johnny’s a (probably
perfect) father. One track Flynn introduced as a very bad lullaby, which he has
tried to use to get his son to sleep, but it has not worked. (I wish I
remembered which song!) Flynn’s set was pleasant, his accent making the girls
behind me giddy. The moment that made me giddy was experiencing the harmonies
of “The Water” live. It was like we were getting away with something, seeing Marling
before her set. Then the next song, they brought back out Hackman as well, so I
felt complete.

The transition between Flynn and Marling was more typical
than the tradeoff between him and Hackman– we had to wait a few minutes while
they set up for Laura. She came out, greeted us, then launched into a ten
minutesong, promising to not play another ten minute track for the rest of the
night. Don’t worry, Laura, we enjoyed it, play songs of whatever length you
like, we’ll always love you.

This tour was specially planned for Marling to have a full
band. However, as Marling put it, “the American government had some
disagreements with [her bandmates’] visas,” and so the set was not the
Dylan-goes-electric experience that she wanted to make it. Her new rendition of
“I Feel Your Love,” therefore was not part of the set. Ironically, this was great
for me, because most of her revised set was from I Speak Because I Can, my favorite of her albums. “Goodbye England”
and “Blackberry Stone” were brilliant. “Rambling Man” was empowering,
especially in Marling’s affectionately lackadaisical candor: “Let it always be
known that I was who I am!” She also played a classic, “Failure,” which even she
acknowledged is a pretty harsh tune. She talked about how she was invited to
play at the ACL Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, alongside some of country’s
greats, which made her re-evaluate her own guitar plucking. In order to prove
that she had been practicing, Laura played a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever
Cross Your Mind.” She also invited Hackman back out to cover Foo Fighters.

The last and only other time I have seen Marling live was in
Gainesville, FL, and the crowd was as obnoxious as you would expect from a
group of people in Gainesville, FL. One of them shouted at her that she should
have his children. My friend and I were cringing, especially because it was
such an intimate setting. There was little room to separate the crowd from the
audience, so Marling just had to politely ignore it. This time around, the
Palace Theater did well to create a good barrier, yet still people insisted on
shouting at her while she tuned her guitar for each song. Someone asked if she
could play with Laura on stage. Laura’s response might have been the best
moment of the night: “Oh. No.” Saving the moment she added, “Not because it’s a
bad idea, it’s because I’m too awkward to pull something like that off.”

Her backdrop throughout the show was an image of the desert
which was nearly untouched from dawn til dusk. Citing her awkwardness, Marling gave
her familiar speech about not doing encores. “If you wanted an encore, this is
the last song, and if you didn’t want one, this is the second-to-last song.” By
the end, the desert background was lost in the clouds of the night sky.

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