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Etta Marcus at The Wardrobe

Leeds was the final stop of Etta Marcus’s ‘The Death of the Summer Tour’, a celebration of her debut album which was released at the end of January. It’s been a year since Marcus’s last Leeds show at Hyde Park Book Club, and what a formative year it has been for her career. Since the first show of her headline tour in March 2023, Marcus has gone on to support Lana Del Ray (alongside The Last Dinner Party) at British Summer Time Festival, as well as playing Latitude in July. 

 

I arrived at Wardrobe, twenty minutes before the show’s doors opened, there was a sense of subdued excitement brewing. Ten minutes later and a concrete queue of fans hoping to graze the barrier was forming. Unlike the usual chaotic anarchy of other shows when the doors opened there was a resounding silent agreement to respect the order of the queue when entering the venue – it’s clear Marcus’s fans are some of the most respectful around. 

 

The first opening act, exclusive to the final date, was Lois. As a Leeds local, it’s not uncommon to see Lois as an opener for indie-pop artists in the city, but it is most definitely always a treat. Having recently released her debut EP, ‘Strange Men’, the artist treated the audience to a mix of released and unreleased songs, and despite her evident nerves at the start, Lois’s confessional style charmed the audience, and her set went down a storm. In particular, her decision to encourage some audience participation by adding call-and-response to the end of her performance of ‘Running’, made for a memorable set. Lois’s set was so captivating that whilst waiting for the next act, many audience, members were following the artist on Spotify.


 

The second opener, Dundee-based alternative singer/songwriter Theo Bleak, accompanied Etta for the duration of her tour. Clad in a silk maxi slip dress topped by an oversized men’s shirt, holding a sparkly cerulean electric guitar, Bleak’s aesthetic was one of exaggerated contrast. Her set began with a cold open as Bleak and her band took to the stage to play their first song before introducing themselves. Bleak’s set incorporated a mix of full band performances and unplugged acoustic renditions that perfectly set the tone for Marcus’s set to come - Bleak’s career is certainly one to watch!

 

As the evening progressed and the venue filled up, the crowd’s collected and respectful demeanour remained, yet the excitement was palpable as Marcus was greeted with whoops and cheers when she took the stage with her band. Wearing a black velvet dress with bejewelled heart cut-outs, Marcus embodied the perfect aesthetic blend of her last EP, ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’, and her latest album. The set opened with ‘Snowflake Suzie’ and ‘Provider’, both new releases from ‘Death of the Summer’, but her fans’ long-term loyalty was made evident by the enthusiastic response to the opening notes of her third song, ‘Hide & Seek’, Marcus’s first ever single from 2021. As it was the final night of the tour, Marcus kept hinting that there would be something special throughout the evening, and she did not disappoint. Marcus treated the audience to a cover of Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade into You’ at the end of her performance of ‘Skin Parade’, as well as an acoustic rendition of ‘Fruit Flies’ in tribute to one of her favourite artists and biggest inspirations, Jeff Buckley, during the encore. The presence of an encore, as well as the larger venue, were the main notable differences to her last Leeds performance and are testimony to the extent to which her musical oeuvre has increased over the past year.

 

The true standout moment, however, was the performance of ‘Theatre’, the final song of the night, which provided an opportunity, she told me later, for her to release all of her nervous energy. Marcus confessed to me that this is the first tour where the scale of her increasing popularity has been laid bare. When I shared my preference for ‘Nosebleed’, a single from her previous EP, expressing my joy that it made it to the setlist when so many other songs didn’t, Marcus confided that she believes its generally underappreciated by her fans but that it always seems to be a favourite of her Leeds crowds. Perhaps there’s something about the city that makes people resonate with the idea of punching someone in the face! Yet in true Marcus style, the final song did not mark the end of the evening. As fans stood out in the cold waiting for their chance to talk to the artist, the almost freezing temperatures couldn’t keep anyone, including Marcus away. When it comes to Marcus and her fans, dedication and loyalty is clearly a two-way street…


Words + Image: Sophie Fennelly, she/her

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