A duet of brilliance, Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn enchanted at Union Transfer - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Laura Marling | Photo by Elizabeth Mazenko

“I’ve known Johnny since I was 16,” Laura Marling laughed as her tourmate Johnny Flynn picked up the violin to join her onstage. “And we both look exactly the same.”

Saturday night, Union Transfer was host for a delightful evening with these two icons of modern British folk. Joined by emerging UK singer songwriter Marika Hackman, the night was filled with an enchanting performance of raw images and old memories.

Her first time touring in Philly, Marika Hackman took over the stage with an earnest sense about her. However, I believe the entire crowd would agree that what came out of her mouth was practically time suspending. At least she was the first opener I’ve heard where the audience chatter seemed to cease.

Fashioning a very relaxed look (which she admitted were her pajamas, apologizing for not coming better prepared for the heat), Hackman stole the crowd’s attention with dissonant, guitar-plucked tunes that counteracted the delicate image we saw on the stage. A silky voice spilled over dismal, lullaby-like melodies singing harsh lines like “Oh to drown in your mind / I would I know I would / To suffocate in your smoke / I’d choke on you if I could,” (“Drown”) or “As blood runs down my face / I love that iron taste / If you’d just let me in / I’ll bandage up my face and hide away,” (“Cannibal”).Hackman released her debut album We Slept At Last in February. Despite the grisly imagery, her somber yet impressive tunes are ones worth listening to.

Next on the bill was Johnny Flynn. With no hesitation, he immediately swung into favorites like “The Wrote and the Writ,” “Mumeration,” and “Brown Trout Blues.” The crowd sang along as Flynn’s guitar-plucked folk tunes swelled the hall. After finishing “A Lady Is Risen,” Flynn introduced a new song he hasn’t quite finished, but wanted to test out on the stage. Not long after, Laura Marling joined Flynn on the stage for a sensational performance of the duet, “The Water.”

I saw Flynn play “The Water” last time he was in town, and the song itself is a beautiful tune to witness live. But his sold out North Star Bar show was solo, and despite the crowd helping out Flynn with the harmonies, it simply lacked the luster that only Marling’s voice could bring. Saturday evening though, Marling at her mic and Flynn at his, it was simply brilliant to see.

Before Marling took over the stage, Flynn had Marika Hackman come back out and all three finished out Flynn’s set with the bouncy crowd favorite, “Tickle Me Pink.”

“Hello Philly, you grew,” Marling cheerily said to greet the crowd at the top of her set. Sliding right in, most of her performance pulled from her most recent release Short Movie and her 2013 record I Was an Eagle. However, no album was left untouched with old favorites like “Ghosts,” “Rambling Man,” and “Sophia.”

With only a double bass and minimal drums to back her up, Marling stole the stage with her cheeky lines and sassy disposition implied by her voice slides. The crowd was so awestruck that it seemed to hold its collective breath as she sang ballads like “Love Be Brave.” At one point, she told the crowd how an earlier show on the tour was ridden with shout-outs from the crowd, and there was one song she didn’t think about for a long time, and tried to sing, but forgot the words.

Wanting to redeem herself, she pulled out “Failure,” and jokingly commented throughout the song about how harsh she was at 16 years old. Before the end of the show, she asked Flynn to join her as she addressed the crowd. “We have two more songs, and we do not do encores.” As the crowd groaned a little, she carried on saying, “So if you were hoping for an encore, this is the last song and the next is the encore. And if you weren’t, this is the second to last song.”

After “Worship Me” Marling invited Hackman back on the stage, and the three friends finished the evening with a cover of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work.”

Missed the performance? Check out the setlists and photo gallery below.

Johnny Flynn setlist
Lost and Found
The Wrote and the Writ
Brown Trout Blues
The Lady is Risen
New Song – Untitled
The Water (w. Laura Marling)
Tickle Me Pink

Laura Marling setlist
Take the Night Off
I was an Eagle
Walk Alone
Master Hunter
Love Be Brave
You Know
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Dolly Parton cover)
Blues Run the Game
What He Wrote
I Feel Your Love
How Can I
I Speak Because I Can
Rambling Man
Worship Me (Johnny Flynn on violin)
Dirty Work (Steely Dan cover)

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