Live Review: Marlon Williams & The Yarrabenders

29 February 2016 | 2:11 pm | Craig English

"It's a rare gift to be able to so vivaciously present songs with unbelievably depressing subject matter..."

More Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders More Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders

The Chevron Festival Gardens really was fine where it was. The Perth Cultural Centre was central, accessible and surrounded by all the good eateries of Northbridge, making it the perfect place to congregate with friends. Now awkwardly tucked away in the corner of Elizabeth Quay, it seems an out of place afterthought, as though its planning committee shrugged its shoulders and said "Well we've gotta put something there". That's probably complaining a bit too much, though, as its Sunday night offerings left plenty to write home about.

Marlon Williams & The Yarrabenders played to perhaps the most respectfully silent crowd Perth has amassed in years. The pindrop silence that he was afforded for his exquisite cover of Nina Simone's When I Was A Young Girl was sublime and utterly necessary.

Little is known about Williams' background but there must be one hell of a story to the evolution of such an astonishingly gorgeous voice that is as evocative as Anohni's and as richly diverse as Noah Lennox's. It's a real mystery how such a picturesque and diverse spread of bluegrass, country and folk-rock could be so modishly packaged in Williams and his equally talented band and go largely unnoticed, but as The KLF once put it: you can't truly call yourself an artist if you're not struggling... or something to that effect.

It's a rare gift to be able to so vivaciously present songs with unbelievably depressing subject matter, but oddly enough, it seems to come naturally to Williams. He gleefully introduced The State Hospital, a song about a man who'd been institutionalised after he realised his wife had died, which would naturally lead one to brace themselves for a melancholic trip into the mind of a man beset with grief and sadness, but the pleasant surprise that was instead delivered was a sweetly melodic folk song of celebration.

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Covers of the Stanley Brothers' Nobody's Love Is Like Mine and If That's The Way You Feel were the show-stopping gems of the night. They brought Williams and his Yarrabenders to a huddle around the one microphone in the middle of the stage, and poised with mandolin, double bass and banjo, they proceeded to more or less openly audition for a spot on the soundtrack to the next Coen Brothers film.  

Armed with inspiration from the greats throughout the ages and a profoundly in-depth understanding of the powerful emotional resonance in his storytelling, Williams is a new-age Dylan, just taller, funnier and not as painfully serious.