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May 28, 2018 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Marlon Williams & Julia Deans

My review of Make Way For Love in an earlier issue of Salient outlined that I am somewhat of a superfan of Marlon Williams, and his shows at the Hunter Lounge presented my first opportunity to catch him live.

First of all, his choice of support act was nothing less than brilliant – Julia Deans put on a stellar set of downtempo, singer-songwriter numbers with a grittiness to them. I read a review of the show from the night prior which suggested that Deans’ set was not suited to the Hunter Lounge setting, but I couldn’t disagree more. Deans’ set held the audience spellbound, with “Clandestine”, “Chelsea”, “We Light Fire”, and old favourite “A New Dialogue”, all proving to be highlights. Her stage banter was pretty dry but in an endearing way, and it went over well in the crowd setting. Deans’ new album is out now, and it’s a ripper, so make sure you have a listen.
Marlon Williams was simply on another planet though. Williams and his band, the Yarra-Benders, entered the stage and launched into “Come To Me” and “I Know A Jeweller”, two relaxed highlights from the new album. Williams’ charm and charisma were already on display, and these feelings were only amplified as the night went on.
Williams’ set was somewhat of a masterclass in taking an audience on a variety of journeys. His phenomenal, Orbison-esque voice was probably even better in a live setting than on record, and his dramatic performances of soft piano ballads like “Beautiful Dress” and “Love Is A Terrible Thing” were heart-wrenching and poignant. In addition, Williams was able to flick the switch into party mode, performing raucous renditions of “Party Boy”, and a variety of well-chosen covers. Of particular note was his sinister performance of “Can I Call You”, in which he pranced around the stage like a seasoned method actor, portraying the jealousy prevalent in the lyrics with ease, and a Nick Cave-esque swagger.

My personal highlight came in the encore, as Williams rolled out his infamous version of “Portrait of a Man”. It was utter perfection – Williams and his band navigated the peaks and troughs of the arrangement with vigour and passion, while Williams’ intense vocal performance was out-of-this-world. Williams’ physical performance was, again, equally captivating as he roamed the stage and climbed over into the front of the crowd (directly over myself and my girlfriend, I might add). Quite simply, this rivalled any set-closer I have seen live.
I often attempt to hold back from hyperbole after a visceral musical experience like this one, but in this instance there is simply no point. Marlon Williams is on some kind of roll right now, and I’m just glad to have been in the room to be with him for the ride.


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