Monday, October 3, 2016

Live Shows: Marlon Williams and Julia Jacklin, Great Scott, Allston, MA 9/30/16

Photo by Ken Sears
In one of my most anticipated double bills all year, Marlon Williams came through Boston with Julia Jacklin. Pairing two Americana artists from New Zealand and Australia seems like such an obvious choice that it would never happen, but sometimes things just work out perfectly that way.

 Any time you talk about Marlon Williams, you have to mention his voice. His voice is, quite simply, absolutely stunning. He has such a pure talent of singing that doesn't usually fit into the whole country/folk thing. It's like an American Idol crooner became obsessed after Hank Williams week. Not too many crooners sing songs about the only woman ever executed in New Zealand ("The Ballad of Minnie Dean"). He has the type of voice that gives him an immediate, obsessive and vocal female fanbase, which was out strong at Great Scott. It's a level of adoration usually reserved for the Justin Biebers of the world. 

Photo by Ken Sears
This dedication won't keep him in small dingy rock clubs for much longer. His backing band, The Yarra Benders, might just be the tightest band I've ever seen playing a club with a capacity under 300. Every song from the rowdy "Hello Miss Lonesome" to the mournful "Dark Child" captivated the crowd. The songs performed with a band and the ones he did solo and acoustic were all just as engaging as the one before it. The only time the band played on the sloppier end was on a cover of the classic "The End of the World," which is exactly what a cover song like that should be.

Julia Jacklin didn't get quite the same level of devotion that Marlon Williams received, but her album isn't even officially out yet. A good chunk of the crowd chose to sit at the bar and socialize loudly, but it was truly their mistake. Playing as a duo with a second guitar player, Jacklin had a smaller but equally as appreciative audience with completely stripped down versions of "Coming of Age" (which was dedicated to a friend celebrating his 30th birthday that night, his age said in a way to make me feel ancient) and "Pool Party," which is a strong contender for song of the year for me. Her gently strummed guitar was almost drowned out by the folks at the bar, but I'm sure they'll be bragging they were there when she's playing (and wowing the crowd at) the Newport Folk Festival next summer.

This was the type of show that everyone there will get to boast about in a few years. The large clubs and theaters will be in Williams' and Jacklin's very near future.

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