The Crystal Palace is most likely Auckland’s most dilapidated venue. It was home to Marlon William‘s Album Release Tour show last night. Cobwebs adorned the ceiling and there was a cold draft around many of the edges, but the sold out audience quickly filled in the room and it heated up. Such an achievement for Marlon to have now sold out all four of his New Zealand shows for this tour, a testament to the rising popularity of the alt-country genre and to his own abilities. 
His rise to stardom has included numerous stunning albums and contributions to albums, including his work with Delaney Davidson and his early group The Unfaithful Ways. With his first solo record he has certainly cemented himself as a household name in NZ, the self-titled album is exquisite and his show last night brought this to life perfectly. 

Opening the evening was the gorgeous Laura Jean, with guitar or autoharp she told heart-felt songs of families and failed relationships. She worked the crowd well, introducing the autoharp with, “If you ever want to start a conversation with a middle aged person at an airport, carry an autoharp around.” 

Marlon began the evening alone, as if he wanted to show what he could do before he surrounded himself with the cream of the crop of musicians. There was no doubt in any minds what Marlon could do as he opened with a Ewan MacColl tune. Over the course of the next few songs he introduced his band, and ‘number one partner in crime’ Aldous Harding. The ever present Dave Khan on mandolin, violin and electric guitar, the bass maestro Ben Woolley, and Melbourne drummer Gus Agars, all joined Marlon one by one. Aldous and Laura Jean both took to the stage to sing harmonies on various songs. 

Ranging from ‘honky tonk’ to bluegrass, the band took the crowd on a roller-coaster ride that included a high energy and thrilling version of Hello Miss Lonesome and a rarely performed After All. All the hits off the album were there, with Silent Passage, and Strange Things, highlights for myself. I was singing Strange Things well into the night as I made my way home. Littered throughout his own songs were appropriately chosen covers, all lending themselves perfectly to his powerful and old voice. His voice commanded attention in the songs, and it was almost fitting he ended the show with two songs without his trusty guitar. A wonderful version of Time of the Season from The Zombies was our goodbye to Laura and Aldous, before the four boys launched into an almost Led Zeppelin-like version of a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins blues tune Portrait of a Man. 

If you’ve got tickets to his shows in Dunedin and Christchuch then you are lucky indeed. If you missed him this time, then keep an eye out for when Marlon’s back in town. 


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