There have been few performers I’ve seen this year who have made an impact in the way Marlon Williams has. His show at The Gov on Thursday night marked only the second time I’ve seen him perform but still, I felt like I was witnessing his talent for the first time – there’s so much potential still to be explored. The show neared on selling out prior to the event and the venue upgrade from his last Adelaide show at Jive earlier in the year was only testament to the rise in Williams’ profile within the music-loving community.
Ben Salter was already on stage when I arrived at the show and it was great to see him command a decent crowd of his own for this weeknight show. Salter has always been an intriguing performer to watch – the way he works through a set, whether it’s a solo one or as part of The Gin Club, always has the ability to captivate in a different way. Perhaps you’ll be drawn to the way his lyricism translates live. Or perhaps it’s in the little inflections that come through in his accent when he delivers a particular tune. Or hell, maybe it’s in the way that, when he’s alone on stage, Salter can carry a set with the energy of a full band set while maintaining an intimate show feel.
With his latest record The Stars My Destination, Salter deservedly drew praise and being able to watch him perform after some time, it only reinforces how much quality he harnesses as a writer, even if it may come across in an understated way. Like two of my favourite Pauls (Kelly and Dempsey), Salter has a way of establishing some gorgeous narratives through his lyrics and as a performer, he knows how to bring each song to life to a great effect.
The time taken to reset the stage for the headline set was pretty short and it wasn’t long before the man of the hour emerged solo with an acoustic guitar to rapturous applause. Again, this is another performer who has the ability to hold the room in the palm of his hand regardless of whether he has a full band behind him or not. It was clear that we were Marlon’s from the onset and hell, we were happy to be.
Since seeing Marlon and The Yarra Benders some months ago, Williams has taken his acclaimed self-titled record overseas and has locked down an entire national tour down with the band before this particular set. Their time together is reflected in what has become an incredibly tight live show; they were obviously a band who had their shit together on their last tour but it’s obvious that they’ve continued to refine and become so comfortable performing with one another that the show ran brilliantly. Rolling out some bluegrass early in the set got the crowd hyped up, before Marlon lunged into the guts of his latest album, churning out some heart wrenching songs that have so far captured the hearts of fans around the country through the year.
In between songs there isn’t too much time set aside for banter, except for a cheeky smile here and there and the usual mid-show quips and show introductions. For the most part, it’s entertaining to watch how Williams interacts with the band as they shoot glances to one another, operating on that dynamic only the band would really connect with.
“Lonely Side of Her”, “Dark Child”, “Everyone’s Got Something to Say” and “Strange Things” were stand outs, though in “Hello Miss Lonesome” and “When I Was a Young Girl” did I truly note two particular moments where the audience were treated to I suppose you could call it, the full Marlon Williams experience. Of course, the man’s vocal quality is ridiculous good at the best of times but by the end of the main set, “Hello Miss Lonesome” was inserted as a way of ensuring that nobody would be leaving The Gov without hollering, dancing or sweating.
We had a small amount of time to calm down before Williams returned solo again to dole out “When I Was a Young Girl”, a move I recognised from the previous show. At that show, Marlon was basically shrouded in the darkness of the dimmed stage lights, with only his voice piercing the rendered-silent room. At this date, we could see him clearly but the effect was still the same; with more people surrounding him this time round, the song was delivered with the same amount of precision that made the room feel a certain type of tension; as if we were all held in a stunned bubble. The applause that would follow the encore was shattering and you could tell the band was a bit blindsided by it – as one of their last headline shows of the year, I felt like it was a good way to go.