On a sunny and crisp Sunday morning, I was snuggled up in bed with my coffee and toast when New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams joined me…via YouTube. In what can only be described as a unique and wonderful Mother’s Day present, Williams premiered the full live concert film from his acclaimed 2019 release Live at Auckland Town Hall via various social media outlets.
Dressed in a black suit, his black hair quiffed to perfection and guitar slung across his body with a custom “MW” guitar strap, Williams opened with Come to Me from Make Way For Love (2018). Together with I Know a Jeweller, Everyone’s Got Something to Say and Beautiful Dress, it served as the ideal appetiser of what eventuated into an unforgettable performance.
The emotional intensity of the performance amplified with I Didn’t Make a Plan as Williams, on keys, warbled, “I didn’t make a plan to break your heart”. He may not have planned to break it, but he definitely did something to it as The Fire of Love, a cover of Lhasa de Sela’s Is Anything Wrong and Can I Call You, a song about “ugly, ugly jealousy” embraced Auckland Town Hall.
Williams has this unique ability to seize your heart with both hands, raise you off the ground, shake you around like a ragdoll and then throw you back down, leaving you emotionally raw. And he did just that with Dark Child. Once he was done singing, Williams nonchalantly walked off stage leaving the audience flummoxed yet awe-inspired as the Yarra Benders—Ben Woolley (bass), Dan Luscombe (keys), Gus Agars (drums) and Dave Khan (guitar)—were tasked with completing the fervent journey. The emotional melancholy persisted with I’m Lost Without You ensuring the preceding sentiment lingered for another four and a half minutes.
A Yoko Ono cover of Nobody Sees Me Like You Do lightened the intensity, while What’s Chasing You and Party Boy had me up and dancing on the bed. One could say I was Carried Away with the moment as Williams launched into Carried Away (sorry!) written and originally sung by the incomparable Barry Gibb.
The always tremendous Vampire Again concluded the up-tempo segment with a partially disrobed Williams gyrating in full swag filled splendour. In true rock ‘n roll style, garments were thrown on stage in appreciation. A bow tie, not underwear, but a garment, nevertheless.
The final two songs of the main set, Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore and Make Way for Love served as bookends of each other. They concluded an energising and lusciously emotive seventeen song set on a serenely pleasant note.
The calmness continued into the encore as Williams on keys sung about how Love Is a Terrible Thing. Then, in a show highlight, the near eight-minute Portrait of a Man decidedly caused face and heart-melting havoc. The slow, deliberate, and intensely passionate sound was mesmerising and complemented by Williams astounding velvety voice and imposing range. As the passion and intensity increased, the stage lights, appropriately red, danced around the Town Hall like blood coursing through its veins. To say this was brilliant would be an understatement.
When I Was a Young Girl sans The Yarra Benders closed out this remarkable and memorable performance championing Williams for the undeniable talent that he is.
Live music like this is what live music is all about, and I, for one, cannot wait until I can experience it in the flesh again.
Live Review By Anita Kertes