11th August | Rough Trade

It’s 4:04pm. Marika Hackman is due on stage any second now. The room’s packed with fans, each clutching their shining copy of Any Human FriendTime ticks by. Finally, the side door opens, and out she comes – a little shorter in person than you’d think, based on the imposing album art. 

It’s one of her first gigs of the new and critically-acclaimed album, and she begins with its opener ‘wanderlust’. It’s one of the few tracks on the album that recall her previous work, and though live, could easily be record quality. Like many record store gigs, it’s a stripped down set, but it’s still a lovely sound. “There’s a lot of you!” she remarks, and she’s right: there’s not much space to move. She introduces Cam who’s joining her on stage, who echoes that. It must be a little daunting, but she’s a true professional.

“the one” is one of the highlights from the new record. Its pop and synth bombast in the studio are replaced by a much more serious performance, but of course it’s still as fun to listen to. Cam assists with soaring backing vocals and rhythm guitar strums. Next, “My Lover Cindy” from I’m Not Your Man showcases her experience with older material – played with the comfort that comes from the strength of experience. Cam’s falsetto is pretty strong, too.

We’re loving the performance so far, and it seems Marika wasn’t expecting this level of adulation. Before ‘i’m not where you are’, we’re warned not to come and slap her, but nobody here would dare harm her, such is the love outpoured. Of course, this track too is a treat to hear. A near-verbatim rendition of the lead single’s acoustic B-side is as catchy as ever. The duo on stage sing in lovely harmony. Marika has a habit of scrunching up her face a little while singing, and she briefly looks as pained as the song’s message. They smirk at each other afterwards.

After a quick guitar swap, Hackman plays the raunchy ‘all night’. Apparently a young father came up to her recently after playing this track, thanking her: he no longer had to give ‘the talk’ to his son after hearing it. That describes the song well, I think. The words ooze out, thickly dripping with the song’s sexual energy.

Straight back to the acoustic for ‘blow’; Marika taps her plimsolls in mid-air to the beat. A rare moment of discontent crosses her face afterwards, betraying her thoughts on it. Soon however, she’s back in the swing of it, playing ‘Ophelia’ from We Slept At Last. Again, she’s assured: it seems to have been but a blip.

We’re coming up to the end of the set, and a gushing Marika thanks us for our support and for spending our Sunday afternoon with her (“Wait, is it Sunday afternoon?”). Finishing, she plays a very calming ‘Cigarette’, an oft-overlooked cut of hers. We breathe it in as deeply as we can. The pleasure is all ours.

See the video for ‘the one’ here: