Gig review: Marika Hackman at The Wardrobe, Leeds

Marika Hackman at The Wardrobe, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart
Marika Hackman at The Wardrobe, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart
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The last time Marika Hackman played in The Wardrobe there were ‘about ten people’ there.

In the intervening months the former Burberry model turned musician has transformed her sound from the nu-folk of her 2015 debut to the 90’s alt-rock of current album I’m Not Your Man. The process has seen her significantly boost her audience numbers and connect with people through her lyrical embrace of the joyful colours and messy confusion of being a young adult.

On the nursery rhyme structure of ‘Time’s Been Reckless’, for instance, on which her three-piece band lend ragged backing vocals, she sardonically apologises, “I’m so tactless, I’m so sorry.” On set closer ‘Boyfriend’, which takes the template of a Nirvana track and ups its pop quota, she meanwhile revels in raw, taunting sexuality.

It’s a grunge-lite sound that positions her as Juliana Hatfield’s less precious cousin twice removed. Yet the indie-rock transition is far more nuanced than has been widely reported. ‘Apple Tree’, a shimmering bite of folk influenced dream-pop, acts as a bridge between her two albums while ‘Cigarette’, which she performs solo during the encore, has the quality of a 70s folk-rock cover.

In this context it can be difficult to pick out the older material, with the gothic undertones and chiming late 80s guitars on ‘Open Wide’ and ‘Bath Is Black’ being within spitting distance of downbeat new track and set opener ‘Good Intentions’.

There’s nonetheless a sense that for all her complaints of feeling “so damn old” she’s found a way to becoming younger and more playful with her latest work, which translates into an uplifting live experience.