Marlon Williams – Forum Melbourne

Marlon Williams – Forum Melbourne

Written and photographed by Sarah Rix


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 On Friday night New Zealand’s Marlon Williams made another appearance at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre. It was an evening fresh off the announcement that he’s set to join Florence + The Machine as support on a string of (sure to be sold out) 2019 Australian dates. He’s been doing well on the sold out front in his own right, too. The 27-year-old had already visited the 2,000 cap room back in May – returning, a short month later, for another night in support of his sophomore record, Make Way For Love.

Taking to the stage for an hour and a half long set, right off the bat Williams presented himself like the second coming of Elvis. His deep, crooning cadence was on display early for opening numbers “Down in the Garden” and “Come to Me”.

As a showman, WIlliams certainly has that “it factor” about him that makes you pay attention. He’s a striking figure on stage and equal parts engaged with his crowd, self-aware, self-assured, and professional. Whether behind a keyboard or with a guitar in hand, the constant smoothness of his voice – coupled with a confident stage presence – made Williams an engaging figure who filled the large venue very well.

With this commanding presence in mind, it’s hard to pin the issue of the night on Williams himself… he just happened to be up against a boisterous Friday night crowd. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why people spend their hard earned money on tickets to a show that they’re loudly going to talk through, but I do feel like I know a lot about this one middle aged woman’s dating life. Don’t worry, though. I won’t bore you with those details.

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Back up on stage,“The Fire of Love” featured a prominent and impressive guitar solo from Williams, though it all really came back to his voice. When the other instruments dropped out (Williams was supported throughout the night by his three-piece backing band, The Yarra Benders,) his vocal talents were evident. This proved equally true for “Is Anything Wrong” – a song that began a cappella before a plodding bass and drum line came in. The Lhasa cover was reminiscent of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. He and his band also presented their takes on Yoko Ono, Barry Gibb, Teddy Randazzo, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins throughout the night, though there were also plenty of modern referential points to be heard.

“Can I Call You” fared more experimental with its almost Interpol-esque guitars and Arctic Monkeys-like lyrical deliverance, complete with a four-part harmony on the chorus.

The set climaxed with the rocky, upbeat “Dark Child” (taken from his 2015 self-titled debut) – the song exploding into an instrumental burst, lead by a bass line lifted straight from the nineties and hitting its sweet spot when the guitars came in. Williams and company also ventured into psychedelic territory on “Party Boy”, the lights switching from muted tones to colourful blasts. It was a welcome surprise, sounding like the type of number that would fit right at home in a Franz Ferdinand set. The night was all fairly referential, truth be told, but this is forgivable – what isn’t nowadays?

“This feels like a dream,” Williams said prior to starting his two-song encore. “What business do I have selling out the Forum twice in a row? This is bullshit. Thank you very much.”

Maybe next time around he’ll get to a five night residency at the venue. Williams will, after all, undoubtedly croon his way into the hearts of many a Florence + The Machine fan, too.

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