Currently touring her latest album Drop Cherries, Billie Marten gave a nuanced and quietly moving show under the string lights of Summerhall, Edinburgh to a sold-out crowd. With support from the equally as stunning Clara Mann, a feeling of contentment followed the night from start to end. When a live performance sounds as incredible as it does on the record, it’s hard not to get hooked.
I came to the show with no prior knowledge of Clara Mann, the indie-folk support act for the night. With only her guitar and lit by a single spotlight, Mann immediately entranced the audience with her serene, classic vocals. It felt as if I had walked into Mann gently crooning in her living room; I was calm and completely attentive to her words. The room was quietly dominated by her soft, finger-picked guitar and timeless, ethereal singing. The set was dispersed by the occasional audience interaction, memorably a sweet moment with her sister in the crowd after Mann mentioned their mum in an upcoming song. She created a sense of serenity to ease us in, seemingly effortless in setting the stage for Billie and her band.
I was lucky enough to catch Marten’s set at Edinburgh’s Connect Festival earlier this year, where she was accompanied by the brilliant Henry Fausing-Smith on strings and sax and Casper Miles on percussion. A contrast to the warm, festive atmosphere of Summerhall in December, yet Marten’s music felt like a big, long-awaited hug each time.
After opening up with a few older singles, starting with Garden of Eden from her first album Writing of Blues and Yellows, Marten apologised for feeling a bit off. Unsurprising, being fresh off the back of a U.S. tour and straight into the throes of adoring fans for a run of home shows – yet there were no signs of weariness from Marten or the band. Only a few awkward moments arose with a broken string and a joke from the audience about muffins, but Tim Abbey flawlessly kept the show running from the wings. We saw the band, including Tommy Heap on bass and Ellie Mason on all kinds of instruments, form a group of incredible artists that bounced off of each other seamlessly. There were beautiful moments showcasing their collective and individual talents, most notably during the breakdown of ‘Nothing But Mine’ before the encore. I think my personal highlight was the arrangement of ‘Acid Tooth’, that saw the group joined by Clara Mann to sing and play into a single microphone in perfect harmony.
You could see how much Marten’s music meant to the audience, with hugs all around. There wasn’t much movement from the crowd, with less dancing during the more upbeat songs than I expected, like for the cheerfully romantic closer, and a highlight of Drop Cherries, ‘I Can’t Get My Head Around You’. This is probably because, like myself, most people were still mesmerised by solo renditions of ‘Devil Swim’ and a new song ‘Crown’ from before the encore. The night was a beautiful way to round off Marten’s sentimental and intricate album. There were nostalgic moments from Marten’s earlier records, but it was Drop Cherries’ folky soundscape that really enveloped the audience. It truly felt like a special time to be in the crowd while Marten and her band delivered a musically faultless evening.