Kate Miller-Heidke – ‘Child In Reverse’ Tour @ The Palais Theatre – Melbourne. 7th July 2022
Review: Colette Imi. Photos: Jason Rosewarne
Stemming from the popular coastal town Warrnambool in Victoria, to busking on the streets of Melbourne, 25 year old DIDIRRI was the opening act for Kate Miller-Heidke this evening. Just him, a mic, an acoustic guitar, keyboard and a little foot heater to ward off the crisp air in the Palais Theatre on yet another bitterly cold Melbourne night. Didirri connected instantly with the audience through his poetic lyrics, quirky humour and banter. He has the ability to transform everyday observations, happenings and emotions into songs that a 20-something can relate to and that a 50-something can fondly recall. Breaking through the cold air, Didirri certainly warmed the theatre up for the main act of the night.
Kate Miller-Heidke released her 5th album ‘Child in Reverse’ in 2020. Having reached the Top 10 on the ARIA Charts, Kate scheduled the ‘Child in Reverse’ tour to kick off in 2021, but like so many others, was forced to reschedule due to Covid restrictions.
Needless to say, as her loyal fans settled into their seats, there was a sense of anticipation that filled the room. Not only was this a long awaited tour, but it was also the first time Miller-Heidke would grace the stage at one of Melbourne’s most sought out performance venues, the majestic ‘Palais Theatre’, where the acoustics of the theatre itself also played a part in perfecting what was certainly a show that will be etched into the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness the magic that was to ensue.
As some stunning string instruments patiently sat in position on what appeared to be a modest stage set up, a row of beams lit up on the stage and the audience cheered loudly as the always elegant Kate Miller-Heidke glided onto the stage in a stunning full length ruffle skirt and a stand out silver tinsel top. Looking angelic, the ethereal vocals of Miller-Heidke opened with ‘A Quiet Voice’ from ‘Child in Reverse’. Kate was partnered on stage together with her husband Keir Nuttall on acoustic guitar, which found ears prick up at soft echoing guitar sounds, triggering off in the background.
Whilst one simply cannot discuss classically trained Miller-Heidke without making reference to her stunning upper register and multi-layered vocals (she has an estimated three-octave vocal range), it must be noted that every artist on the stage brought the audience a performance that was unforgettable. Joining Kate on stage were Nuttall (acoustic guitar and trigger pad), Isaac Hayward (vocals, piano, cello and electronics), Sam Pankhurst (acoustic and electric guitar, Double Bass, electronics and vocals) and the vocally stunning Jess Hitchcock also on percussion.
Kate describes ‘Child In Reverse’ as a personal album based on her own life experiences, the cycle of growth and life lessons; The tracks on the album are honest and beautifully interpreted lyrically.
Offering the audience tracks from all five of Miller-Heidke’s albums, between tracks we experienced Kate’s laid back and interactive personality, which found her at one stage discussing how thrilled she was to bring this tour to Melbourne after a two year wait. Kate told of her own experience living in the state during the ‘long’ lock-down to a nodding Melbourne audience. After a pause, Kate leapt into another ‘Child In Reverse’ track called ‘Born Lucky’, a theatrical, operatic track, where Jess Hitchcock’s impressive operatic backing vocals were a stand out.
Throughout the night, in an almost dream-like sensory experience, we journeyed through many emotions, from melancholy to comedy via stories that felt tremendously personal. Tracks from ‘Child in Reverse’, such as ‘Little Roots, Little Shoots’, ‘You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore’, People Pleaser’ and ‘Deluded’ have titles that give you a taste of how honest Miller-Heidke was on this album, and tonight, the crowd was totally absorbed and drawn into the eye of her story sharing.
Stand out tracks during the night were ‘O Vertigo’ (O Vertigo – 2014) where the audience was astounded at the heights Miller-Heidke could take that indescribable voice of hers; To the show stopping moment where Keir Nuttall stole the show with his delicate guitar work on the track ‘Humiliation’ (Nightflight – 2012). In a dramatic moment after the mid-section, Kate on tambourine approaches Nuttall on guitar, where she herself becomes one with the guitar, tapping out a beat on the body of it, then slowly lowering herself towards the sound hole of the instrument. She then murmurs an operatic hum into it, which gets looped and continues to play her vocals as she strolled away from it, leaving the audience to bathe in the drama. Later on Kate suggested the audience look up the definition of ASMR. One found that ASMR stood for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, an auto sensory meridian response, that is often described as a tingling sensation that usually begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. Personally speaking, I had many moments of ASMR during this show and it peaked during ‘Humiliation’.
The surprises didn’t end there. With a couple of guest appearances, Didirri returned to the stage with his guitar in hand, joining Kate (on piano) to perform ‘Share Your Air’ (O Vertigo (with Passenger) – 2014), where the audience held onto the poetic dialogue between a couple and their thoughts about a love lost. But the biggest surprise came in the form of an 18 year old young lady called ‘Frankie’. Frankie’s teacher got in contact with Kate and conveyed that her student wanted an opportunity to sing with her. Inviting Frankie onto the stage, Kate asked Frankie how she preferred to deliver the song, which found Frankie confidently stating that she wanted to sing the ‘whole thing’ herself. Resulting in a standing ovation, Frankie not only belted out the popular track ‘Caught in the Crowd’ (Curiouser – 2008), she ‘owned it’. It brought many a tear to the room and found Miller-Heidke give Frankie a warm embrace.
After some humorous chatter, Sam Pankhurst set up his stunning Double Bass and has it sounding almost didgeridoo-like during the intro to a haunting song called ‘Sarah’ (Nighflight – 2012). Before long, Kate announces her third final act, a song from ‘Muriel’s Wedding The Musical’ called ‘Amazing’. A gorgeous song where the two main characters Muriel and Rhonda express their love and support for each other, beautifully sung by Kate and Jess Hitchcock.
Given that Kate Bush has suddenly found her way into the charts again and often being compared to Kate Bush, Miller-Heidke vocally threw the audience into another sphere with her impressive cover of ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Following it up with the ever so memorable track ‘Last Day on Earth’ (Curiouser – 2008), Kate’s final song froze the room completely. Starting off with ‘Words’ a track from Kate’s debut album Little Eve (2007), Kate literally rolled straight into a dark, haunting rendition of The Rolling Stones’ hit ‘Paint It Black’, an absolute theatrical and operatic spectacular.
With everyone raised to their feet, Miller-Heidke and band reemerged for an encore, offering the crowd one more genuinely ‘final’ song. Having expanded her popularity abroad as a finalist in the 2019 Eurovision contest, Kate wasn’t leaving until she left a definite mark in our psyche, performing ‘Zero Gravity’ that she penned about her experience with Post-Natal Depression. As she sang, my third eye opened and I realised, that Kate Miller-Heidke is an artist that truly needs to be witnessed live. No TV contest, no radio play, can honestly replace the experience of witnessing an artist like Kate on stage, where she stands in a calibre of her own, leaving the audience, young and old, walking away totally impacted by something beyond an experience, with feelings of pure elation.
Kate Miller-Heidke – Child In Reverse Tour Dates – Frontier Touring.
Tue 12 Jul, 2022 – West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul
Thu 14 Jul, 2022 – Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
Fri 15 Jul, 2022 – Costa Hall, Geelong
Sat 16 Jul, 2022 – Thebarton Theatre – Adelaide
Tue 19 Jul, 2022 – Cairns Performing Arts Centre – Cairns
Thu 21 Jul, 2022 – Anita’s Theatre – Wollongong
Sat 23 Jul, 2022 – Newcastle City Hall – Newcastle (SOLD OUT)
Tue 26 Jul, 2022 – State Theatre – Sydney