Marika Hackman, the London-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, brought her band to The Caves, deep in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, on 26th February. This UK tour saw Hackman riding the crest of a wave, following the release of her acclaimed third album, Any Human Friend, six months previously.
There was a real energy in the darkly atmospheric and jam-packed room by the time Marika Hackman and her three-piece band took to the stage. Hackman soon had the audience in the palm of her hand as she punched out her witty, raucous and frank songs with a winning combination of dark sexual energy and playfulness. The sound was crisp and crystal-clear, doing full justice to Hackman’s anthemic songs, which were chock-full of crisp guitar riffs, killer hooks and insanely catchy choruses, many of which had the audience singing along lustily. Marika Hackman has an alluring and charismatic stage presence and she backs this up with stunning vocals and guitar riffing, soloing and shredding of the highest order. The band were extremely tight as a unit, with the second guitar (and occasional keys) providing added colour and texture and the rhythm section underpinning the sound perfectly.
The songs flowed deliciously, with the set drawn mostly from Any Human Friend and the preceding album I’m Not Your Man. Highlights from a truly impeccable set of songs included the quietly strutting My Lover Cindy, with its air of disillusionment and jangling, 60s style guitar (“I’m a lousy lover, even if I try, I can go for a couple of weeks and the feeling’s calcified.”); the sensual, dreamy and psychedelic Violet, featuring effortlessly cool vocals; the spiky guitar, disco beats and world-weary vocals in The One (“I’m not the one you want, I f**ked it up with the saddest songs…”); the darkly delicious and risqué Hand Solo, which fades out on waves of towering bass and criss-crossing guitar lines; and the funky, bass, guitar and keys, searing guitar fills and irresistible chorus of Come Undone.
For the encore, Marika Hackman returned to the stage alone, quipped “…and now for some truly miserable songs…” and played two spine-tinglers, beginning with the folk-tinged Cigarette, in which her graceful vocals masked the bitterness and regret in the lyrics (“You tried to hold your tongue but I yanked it from your grip, bathed it in petroleum, lit a cigarette and gave it a kiss…”). This was followed up by a delicate reading of the Elliot Smith classic Between The Bars. The band joined Hackman again to close out the encore in exuberant style with Any Human Friend, a glorious celebration of the right to be different and individual.
This was a magnificent gig by Marika Hackman, whose intelligent, edgy and thought-provoking songs and magnetic live performance confirmed that she is an essential artist in her field.