Marlon Williams & Julia Deans – Auckland Town Hall May 25, 2018

Every so often you see a performance that makes you fall back in love with live music.  Marlon Williams’s sold out show at the Town Hall was one such performance.

Although his latest album Make Way For Love is not the first to be penned about heartbreak, it is certainly a far cry from the middle finger anthems and self-empowering sentiments that seem to dominate the contemporary market.  Written in the wake of his break up with fellow musician Aldous Harding, her spectre is omnipresent throughout the album. Their stunning duet, No One Gets What They Want Anymore, captures the complexity of feeling. Their rich languid voices intertwine with heart wrenching compatibility while Williams appears to break his own heart every night with questions like “What am I gonna do/When you’re in trouble/And you don’t call out for me?” He explores the ebb and flow of introspective guilt and remorse, pining and longing that comes and goes like a cruel tide.

It’s a stunning album that deserves every accolade and glowing phrase bestowed upon it.  Its fusion of humour and heartache was presented onstage last night beautifully. Moving away from the country roots of his debut album, Make Way for Love is Williams in the throes of strings, some blues notes and piano that would make Nick Cave nod in approval.

It might be a break up album, but Williams’ self-assured stage presence proved that he is an artist far from being broken.  Moments of relative calm (Beautiful Dress, Come to Me) were beautifully balanced by fleshed out jams Dark Child, Make Way for Love.

Williams cut a dashing figure in a well-tailored suit and a perfect slickback but was unafraid to form some delightfully awkward shapes during the swaggering Vampire Again, the frenetic Party Boy and a sensational cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ Portrait of a Man.  While the late-night drunk dial vibes of Can I Call You hinted at a man unafraid to get a bit dishevelled.

The collective awe of the demographic-spanning crowd was palpable throughout. If anyone can tell you Love is Terrible but still make you crave it, it’s Williams. His velveteen voice with its spectacular range is evocative of vintage crooners, Nick Cave, Roy Orbison and solo Lou Reed; brimming with drama and romance while the ease and control of his breath denoted some classical training.

The song itself- with just Williams and a lonely piano to drive home the agony- showcases his prowess as a songwriter with aplomb. The brutal line “People tell me/Boy, you dodged a bullet/But if only it had hit me/Then I’d know the peace it brings”  was delivered with a heartbreaking crack that made you not only believe it was Williams’s death wish, it cemented itself as a despairing classic.

His backing band The Yarra Benders must also be mentioned for their excellent multi-instrumentation throughout the set.  Their addition of extended jams throughout only added to Williams’s masterful side-stepping of genres and boxes that the media had eagerly put him into.

While our Wellington reviewer seemed a little put out by the number of covers, I’ve got to say I thoroughly enjoyed each of them.  It was fascinating to hear the breadth of Williams’s influences- from Yoko Ono to Barry Gibb and for him to put his own stamp on them.  While he is undoubtedly most comfortable and truly shines within the realm of crooner pop, Williams is constantly exploring and stretching the realms of his influences admirably. The worst thing an artist can do is stay still, and each addition offered an insight into an artist that is only on the way up. This reviewer, and the rest of last night’s adoring crowd, were thrilled to be lifted with him.

Kate Powell

It should be noted that Julia Deans and her band presented the audience with a stunning opening act as well. And how about that dress! (ed)

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn

Marlon Williams Set List

  1. Come To Me
  2. I Know A Jeweller
  3. Everyone’s Got Something To Say
  4. Beautiful Dress
  5. I Didn’t Make A Plan
  6. The Fire Of Love
  7. Is Anything Wrong
  8. Can I Call You
  9. Dark Child
  10. I’m Lost Without You
  11. Nobody Sees Me Like You Do (Yoko Ono cover)
  12. What’s Chasing You
  13. Party Boy
  14. Carried Away (Barry Gibb cover)
  15. Vampire Again
  16. Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore
  17. Make Way For Love


  1. Love Is A Terrible Thing
  2. Portrait Of A Man (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins cover)
  3. When I Was A Young Girl (trad)