The last time Missy Higgins played a show in Sydney, it was December 2007, off the back of non-stop world touring since April that year. Since then, her tour dates began to recede and her fans started to worry. In 2010, she didn’t play any shows in Australia at all. Needless to say, it was incredibly exciting when she played Falls Festival at the end of 2011, and then announced a new album and tour. Was she worth the wait? Most definitely! Missy has come back rejuvenated, with new wisdom and passion, and further developed talent that was all on display at the Seymour Centre last Friday.
Entering the venue and taking my seat, I could already tell this was going to be a special concert. Although it was a sold out show, and the York Theatre seats upwards of 700, the layout was incredibly intimate and even the seats furthest away from the stage seemed to have a great view. The support act Butterfly Boucher is a collaborator and close friend of Missy’s and she was really fantastic. Relaxed and hilarious, she belted out some amazing tracks – one of which included a cameo on keys and backing vocals from Missy herself, which was completely adorable. There were moments in Butterfly’s set when I wanted to get up and dance, and moments in which I almost cried. She’s a really interesting emerging artist and I urge you to go listen to her stuff.
Following Butterfly, there was a 30 minute interval, in which many people (including myself!) went to buy her CD or other merchandise from the foyer. After that, we all settled in and awaited the headliner.
Finally, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause, as Missy Higgins graced the stage with an acoustic guitar, opening with “Secret” from her second album. She seemed a little nervous at the beginning, commenting a few times on how close the front row was to the stage, and how intimate the venue was – but seemed to relax as the night went on, eventually responding to many-a banter and comment from the audience.
Her setlist was really balanced – she played seven tracks from her latest album, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, seven from her debut The Sound of White and six from On A Clear Night, her second record. This was surprising, as usually on album tours the majority of tracks are from the latest album – but I suppose it’d been such a long break for Missy that everything felt like fresh material. Anyway, it was really great to hear the old stuff interweaved with the new.
As she was singing, I noticed that her trademark broad Australian twang has kind of been toned down – I suspect it wasn’t a conscious thing; most likely it is more due to the fact that she wrote a lot of the new album in America, and collaborated with a lot of musicians over there. The slight change in her accent didn’t at all affect her gorgeous voice during the gig.
Some highlights of the gig songwise were “Where I Stood”, “Watering Hole” (in which The Herd’s Jane Tyrell made a guest appearance), “Everyone’s Waiting”, “Peachy” and “Warm Whispers”. For “Unashamed Desire”, the lead single off The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, Missy broke out a keytar which was hilarious and super cool at the same time. “Cooling of the Embers” (which Missy said was written about her grandmother’s death) was a particularly touching moment of the night, as was “The Special Two”. In the latter, I have to admit I shed a tear or two. The emotion with which Higgins plays and sings is truly moving, and the song “The Special Two” itself is remarkable.
When we were nearing the end, Higgins announced that she stopped doing encores a while back, because she found them incredibly awkward and staged – she recommended the audience pretend “you’ve been clapping non-stop for 20 minutes and finally we’ve come back on the stage” which of course, solicited cheers and raucous applause. She then jumped into “Scar”, the wildly popular ballad, which turned into a beautiful singalong and earned a standing ovation. Finally, she played “Steer” – a perfect closer. Missy seemed humbled by her second and final standing ovation, as she and her talented band took a bow – yet we as the audience were just as humbled to have witnessed a musician such as Missy play for over an hour.
Higgins is supporting Gotye on a run of shows in America after this Australian tour, and my advice would be to get in quick! It’s only a matter of time until she’s back to playing bigger theatres and venues and this is your chance to see her in a closer, more intimate setting. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll come away with an inspired, reignited faith in Australian music.
During her between-song banter, Missy mentioned that she had some intense writer’s block at a stage and was finding it really hard to love playing music. Honestly, all I could think at the end of the night was how lucky we are that Missy Higgins is back.