Marlon Williams, Auckland NZ, 2017

Marlon Williams 
9th October 2017
Point Chevalier RSA, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Connor Crawford.

Marlon Williams performing live at the Point Chev RSA, Auckland New Zealand. Image by Crawford Photography.

While the local RSA is not the first venue that springs to mind when thinking of where to showcase one of New Zealand’s greatest vocal talents; for the enigma that is Marlon Williams it fit perfectly like a glove. Steeped in the essence of days gone by, it’s somewhat dated décor charmingly inviting, history shambled along the well-trodden carpets and infiltrated the very atmosphere. It was here, nestled amongst this cloud of timelessness that Williams would later deliver an unarguably world class performance.

However before this in somewhat of a juxtaposition to the dated aesthetics surrounding them, support act for the evening Merk encompassed all that is delightful about the formative years of one’s life. Dressed similarly in white polo’s and t-shirts the four piece took to the stage with their set list of whimsical musical offerings. In comparison to one of their last performances at Seamless Vol. 4, lead vocalist Mark Perkins is far more reserved in his demeanour – maybe in keeping with the tone of the evening – however this detracts not one iota from his performance.

Joined by his talented band of self-confessed best friends – Matt and Matt and the rather clever Josh who not only mans the keyboards but provides wonderfully eclectic ambient sounds throughout the set – Perkins has a wonderfully fertile ground upon which he sows the seeds of his evergreen tracks; the aptly named ‘Eat A Lemon Tart’ introducing the set. While still in its infancy – as a musical project Merk is less than eighteen months old, an astounding fact really considering the quality of the music – Merk has already independently released an album entitled Swordfish. The audience tonight being treated to several tracks from said album including fan favourite ‘Treehouse Club’ and the wonderfully melodic, 90’s nostalgia inducing ‘Manchuria’. At one point during the set, Perkins band leaves him to deliver a solo performance – unfortunately this was marred by the insistent chattering of a large group of audience members towards the front. Featuring muted crystalline synth-pop highlights and clever lyricism Merk was indeed an astute choice for an opening act – complimenting Williams own style seamlessly.

The dancefloor before the stage had now reached full capacity – however this show had been planned out very well with plenty of room still left around the sides for those who did not wish to be quite so enclosed amongst the throng of fans who gathered mere inches in front of Williams microphone stand. Anticipation was high and the air bristled as the audience awaited the slender frame of Williams to emerge from behind the heavy black curtains; when he did just a short time later it was to a wave of whoops and cheers as the crowd enthusiastically welcomed both Williams and his three piece band The Yarra Benders to the stage.

Hailing from Lyttelton, Marlon Williams – who will be turning twenty-seven at the end of next month – is an already award winning artist who has worked extensively with fellow Kiwi musical virtuosos such as Delaney Davidson. His popularity has spread like wildfire throughout both New Zealand and Australia with every one of these intimately styled shows selling out within a few short hours. And it is easy to see why; Marlon Williams has a stage presence that is at once all-consuming and yet tender as he carefully unfolds each story before his audience. Dressed simply in a long sleeved white shirt and thin tie tucked into black jeans, Williams cuts an interesting figure; he has an understated swagger, a sultriness to his demeanour that is alluring. When he sings he commands your attention while simultaneously breaking your heart, his vocals powerfully projected in all the right places.

Beginning the night with ‘Come to Me’ and you could have heard a pin drop as the audience stood transfixed by this beautiful creature before them. He pauses briefly in between songs “Hello Auckland how are we?”, a wistful smile playing across his lips as he speaks of the emotions he felt returning to the country after eight months overseas and hearing someone speak Maori in the airport. Encompassing elements of country, folk and of course the blues Williams delivers an incomparable collection of tales of love, loss and in some cases with ‘Vampire Again’ an insatiable hunger. His tracks are often brimming with a sultry masculinity that is downright erotic, his vocal prowess giving them strength and body regardless of whether he delivers them from behind a guitar or whilst sitting at the keyboard.

The Yarra Benders provide the perfect cocoon from which within Williams weaves his stories; Dave Kahn’s performances on the violin along with Ben Woolleys trips on the double bass adding layers to the music that just have to be experienced live to truly be appreciated. This evening the audience are treated to a selection of new songs including the delightfully titled ‘I didn’t make a plan to break your heart, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever done’ along with ‘The Fire of Love’ – a song Williams informs us is about “giving up”. While (unfortunately) Aldrous Harding was not on hand to perform the duet, Williams – accompanied instead by the much loved Ben Woolley – delivered a beautiful rendition of the new single ‘Nobody Gets what they Want’ laughing as he regaled how once again in the accompanying music video he ends up on the floor surrounded by a group of “disappointed” strangers.

The set flew past all too quickly with Williams soon bidding the crowd goodnight. Of course an encore was loudly demanded with the gracious Williams returning, band in tow to deliver not one but two final tracks. ‘Portrait of a Man’ was delivered with such fire, such utter gut wrenching passion that it was difficult not to stand with one’s mouth slightly agape. This was Williams at his absolute best; microphone in hand he stood balanced on the very edge of the stage, leaning out over the audience. He folded and bended into his music before outwardly expelling it from his body, a slight growl to his voice. Long notes swooped across the room as he stood atop one of the amps finishing on a perfect crescendo. And with a flourish of drums and a rock n roll styled jump to the floor he was gone, the audience left flushed and breathless.

Simply sublime.

Were you there at the Point Chev RSA for this magnificent set  by this beautiful singer-songwriter? Or have you seen Marlon Williams perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

Setlist:
  1. Come To Me
  2. I Know A Jeweller
  3. Lost Without You
  4. What’s Chasing You?
  5. Dark Child
  6. Arahura
  7. I didn’t make a plan to break your heart, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever done
  8. The Fire Of Love
  9. Jealous Guy
  10. Vampire Again
  11. Party Boy
  12. Nobody Gets What They Want
  13. Make Way For Love
  14. Love Is A Terrible Thing [encore]
  15. Portrait Of A Man [encore]

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