Francobollo, Our Girl, Marika Hackman @ Heaven, London, 01/06/2017

Marika HackmanStepping into the iconic Heaven in the heart of London’s Charing Cross, it's hard to reconcile how Marika Hackman's eerie, haunting acoustic sound could possibly fill such a cavernous venue. Luckily, in the years since I last saw her captivate a hundred or so festival-goers at Green Man with just a guitar and that crystal-sharp voice, the Hampshire-born songwriter has stepped her sound up to another level.

First up on stage in the cavernous London venue, support act Francobollo produce a masterclass in irreverent, whimsy pop-rock that continues to set them apart. Next up is Brighton trio Our Girl. Fronted by Soph Nathan, they demonstrate why their star continues to rise so rapidly with the sort of frenetic garage-rock that could see them go far.

Last on stage and playing to a capacity crowd, this felt like something of a homecoming for the headliner, who has built a formidable cult following in the capital after years of relentless work. With Marika and her three-piece band decked out alternately in angel wings and devil horns, they work their way through some old classics in assured fashion. For an artist that made her name with the twisted, gloriously dark and downbeat “Bath Is Black” and “Cannibal,” songs that wallowed in the best traditions of melancholy alt-folk, tonight’s performance showcases the best of a brand new sound.

This latest live offering is a full-frontal wall of noise, brought to life with chiming riffs and that familiar vocal that remains so utterly enthralling. Typically, the gig didn’t pass without drama, as the bassist dislocates her knee and, with commendable bravery and commitment, proceeds to pop it straight back in halfway through the set.

As the last show on a four-date mini-tour in support of new album “I’m Not Your Man,” Marika closes with a flourish, demonstrating the musical flexibility that has underpinned her development as an artist at the forefront of the British music scene.

With the new album picking up unanimously positive reviews across the board, and a co-headline, 14-date North American tour with The Big Moon starting at the end of July, this feels like an overwhelmingly positive start to a new chapter for Marika Hackman.

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