Live Review: Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders, Ben Salter

24 November 2015 | 2:27 pm | Chris Familton

"Interpreting songs — whether it's blues, folk, bluegrass, country or rock'n'roll — is his forte."

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With the sold out sign stuck to the front window of the venue, Ben Salter ambled on stage, unassuming and with that tousled mop of hair. Sans The Gin Club he's a riveting performer with loop and vocal effect pedals, hitting some passionate yet contained peaks that blend observational lyrics with that rousing romantic voice that traces back to '80s singers like Julian Cope.

Marlon Williams is the golden boy of the moment with a critically acclaimed solo album, sold out shows across Australia and New Zealand and just last week picking up Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Artist Of The Year at the NZ Music Awards. Having played with his full band, The Yarra Benders, for a while now, he has the dynamics and pace of their live show mastered. After kicking off solo with Cocaine Blues, he slowly called the band to the stage, starting with his partner Aldous Harding, who was a beautiful and otherworldly counterpoint to Williams' voice as they interpreted Stanley Brothers' songs back to back. Williams referred to the evening as a journey through the history of roots music — exactly what he does so well. Interpreting songs — whether it's blues, folk, bluegrass, country or rock'n'roll — is his forte and he nailed all of them with his humble and humorous stage manner, and that voice that is so devastatingly good regardless of whether he's singing traditional folk or full blooded Screamin' Jay Hawkins blues rock. The highlight of the show was his solo rendition of When I Was A Young Girl which had the audience in slack-jawed silence as he hit and held notes that raised hairs on the back of necks. We've been calling him a star in the making for a while now but the reality is, in this part of the world, he has already well and truly arrived.