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

16 November 2015 | 12:14 pm | Tom Hersey

"Woolly Mammoth staff hurriedly put out chairs in the mosh pit."

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

People over the age of 35 love the ABC. It's a topic that's been discussed ever since proper adults were cutting their Saturday nights short to be home in time for The Bill. Tonight, however, we're presented with incontrovertible evidence to the fact. When the headliner's last tour was a strictly late-20s affair, appearing on The Beautiful Lie has skewed the demographic much, much older. As the chardy party swings into full effect, Brisbane's Ben Salter gets to work creating a soundtrack for the pleasant chitchat permeating the seating areas surrounding the stage. Despite the Mane Stage's acoustics which seem to amplify banal conversations to the prominence of the PA, the singer-songwriter's voice earns the crowd's attention. Sweetness and melancholy intersect in his numbers that prove the most powerful when it's just the man and his acoustic guitar.

As if there needed to be any more proof of what demographic Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders were catering to tonight, Woolly Mammoth staff hurriedly put out chairs in the mosh pit. Even though he's playing to a much different crowd (nice one, Aunty), this is still the third time Marlon has toured through Brisbane playing the same material — the fourth if you include the in-store he did at Jet Black Cat.

It's around this time where a performer's ingenuity comes heavily into play — he can keep winning over new fans, but if he’s not doing something new with his material, the older fans are going to fall off. Fortunately, Marlon and his crew make the same songs from the last tour sound almost completely different. Tonight, breakout single Dark Child gets taken from the morose Handsome Family-esque alt-country tune it is on the album and transformed into a heavy-handed rocker that wouldn’t be out of place on a late-'80s Bad Seeds record. That’s just one example of the attention the band puts into making these songs sound fresh. There are a litany of small changes littered throughout the set that enthral the old fans while delighting new fans (who, rather ironically, are the oldest section of the audience). As Aldous Harding’s backing vocals and harmonies lend cuts like Hello Miss Lonesome a welcome freshness and the band switches up instruments, Marlon and his crew keep everyone on the edge of their kindly provided seats.

Even in a venue so manifestly ill-suited to putting on a country/folk artist — Marlon stops a harrowing rendition of When I Was A Young Girl to offer an "oontz-oontz-oontz" in retaliation to the downstairs techno dross that infiltrates the Mane Stage for the duration of his set — The Yarra Benders and their frontman put on another brilliant show. Because who wants to stand when sitting is an option?

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