Laura Jean opened the evening with an absorbing set that highlighted both her clever lyrical turns and delicate, almost textural finger-picking guitar style. Songs about married life, domesticity and crazy dogs from her 2014 album comprised the bulk of her performance as she drew the audience into her world of observational songwriting and dry-humour. Her family were in attendance and became the subject of some funny asides that contrasted her often deadpan style. Though she had to battle the talkers Jean left the stage to rousing applause.
The rise and rise of Marlon Williams continues with a return to the place where, in late 2013, he supported Robert Ellis to an audience of twenty people. Now he’s headlining and selling out the venue, a testament to his relentless touring and the critical acclaim heaped on his debut album. With fellow Kiwi’s Dave Khan (guitar, fiddle, mandolin) and Ben Woolley on bass he’s cemented his strongest band line-up to date. All superb players, their backing vocals and harmonies were a real highlight, adding a new dimension to Williams’ spellbinding voice. Opening solo with ‘Lonely Side’ he was quickly joined by Woolley and Khan for a Stanley Brothers cover, the first of a number of interpretations (The Zombies’ ‘Time Of The Season’, Johnny Dowd, Bob Carpenter) alongside nearly all of his debut album. The versatility of his band, through frantic rockabilly, plaintiff folk and country rock, is now a crucial part of Williams’ live show where initially the extra players distracted from the essence of his voice and guitar. Through songs of doom and tragedy the audience was floored by regular showstopper ‘When I Was A Young Girl’, the perfect vehicle for everything that makes his voice so impressive. There were exchanged glances of “Wow” and “See, I told you so” as Williams won the hearts of yet another audience.