Live Review: Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders

1 March 2016 | 7:47 pm | Chris Havercroft

"To say the crowd were captivated from the get-go would be an understatement as punters alternated between being transfixed and swooning."

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

He was one of the shining stars of New Zealand for some years before Marlon Williams relocated to Australia and began a relentless touring schedule. Tonight would be his first show back on this vast island after having toured the US recently. The tall singer with a voice that Roy Orbison would be envious of, smiled a cheery greeting before aching his way through The Lonely Side Of Her.

To say the crowd were captivated from the get-go would be an understatement as punters  alternated between being transfixed and swooning. Williams' yesteryear look of braces and oversized cowboy hat have given way to a more funky long hair and cap, as he reinvents himself into uber-cool country rocker. The band joined him on stage for a breakneck speed version of Hello Ms Lonesome, to signal their intentions.

There had been a few teething problems for Williams in transitioning from solo artist to having a band backing him, but his current crop of ‘Yarra Benders’ is the tightest and most crisp collection of sidekicks that he has had at his disposal to date. The road-hardened Dave Kahn is a revaluation as he swaps between mandolin, guitar and violin whether he be playing a heartfelt Silent Passage or the darker Strange Things.

In the highlight of the night, Williams took the opportunity to walk us through some New Zealand history with Ballad of Minnie Dean, where the protagonist buries infants in the back yard before she meets her gruesome and public end. Williams took an unfamiliar place behind a borrowed electric guitar as he took on crooner Billy Fury’s Lost Without You, while an cumbersome guitar solo was forgiven after the faultless Beatles like harmonies or After All.

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When I Was A Young Girl reminded people of the impressive cameo’s that Williams had during the ABC mini-series The Beautiful Lie, before the band cranked out a menacing rendition of Dark Child complete with moments that channelled the Dirty Three.

Not content with his efforts so far, Williams had a couple more tricks up his sleeve. The band crowded around a single microphone to show off their bluegrass chops with a couple of Stanley Brothers tunes If That’s The Way You Feel and Nobody's Love Is Like Mine. Williams then turned into snake oil salesman as he confidently strolled to front of stage during a swampy Portrait Of A Man. Whether singing his lovelorn tunes, death ballads or masterfully interpreting other's songs, this was a night without peer. Making the most of the occasion and the sizeable crowd, this was best performance Williams has played in this town without doubt. 

Originally published in X-Press Magazine