Live Review: Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders, Jim Lawrie, Julia Jacklin

22 April 2015 | 1:06 pm | Naomi Keyte

One of the best shows of the year so far.

The Grace Emily is a favourite of many musicians and gig-goers and was the perfect choice for this bill.

Sydney-based sweetheart Julia Jacklin opened the show and a crowd quickly drew near. There are so many layers to Jacklin’s songs. Biographical in nature, they touch on desire, ambition, travel and lovers. She’s figured out the perfect balance between her pure, subtly nuanced vocals and purposefully simple guitar work. There’s a tinge of dry humour in her delivery, too. Jacklin commands attention not because she’s devastatingly pretty, but because she’s devastatingly good.

Acclaimed drummer Jim Lawrie looked pretty comfortable alone on stage. After listening to his record, however, it was immediately obvious that his songs don’t translate so well in the singer-songwriter context. He needed the fullness of his arrangements behind him, and interestingly it was the drums that I missed most. Some of his songs were still lovely; they just didn’t grab you and pull you closer, as they do on his LP, Eons.

I think it’s fair to say that Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders put on one of the best shows of the year. Williams opened his set with a few solo songs, crooning and cajoling in a manner far beyond his age or experience. The tiny stage then exploded into life as the hard-hitting Yarra Benders landed. This band has evidently been playing together a fair bit: they were super tight and obviously really enjoying themselves. All three members sang excellent backing vocals, adding another element to this almost flawless performance.

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Williams paced the night perfectly, tempering the fleet-footed numbers with old-time ballads. At no time did he falter and the slow build of the set was palpable, ending in an encore that was probably the highlight of the night, which included an unbelievable rendition of Portrait Of A Man, made famous by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Williams’ classical voice training was hard to miss, what with his incredible control, projection and vibrato. There was a huge amount of energy expended by all in what was a thoroughly generous performance. This is the band that keeps on giving.