with George, Ben Abraham
Kings Park Women’s Memorial
Saturday, December 3, 2016
It has been a busy week at Kings Park with three concerts occurring within five days, culminating in a show that would see six and a half thousand people take a space on the grass for a chance to see ARIA award winner Missy Higgins bring her much loved songs to life with the aid of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Melbourne folk artist Ben Abraham is a friend of Missy Higgins and has accompanied her across the nation on this tour. Abraham has a tender voice that is dripping with so much emotion, it is as if it was plugged directly into his heart. His heart of the sleeve narratives means that his is armed with songs that make him appear so sensitive that he would cry if you snapped his ruler. There is plenty of heartbreak on show in his tunes, but a distinct lack of menace. If his songs are anything to go by, being loved by Abraham would be like being loved by your pillow. That said, he was pleasant enough background music for spreading your blanket and easing into your first taste of wine.
Some of Australia’s best bands have come out of Queensland – and then there is George. Fronted by the Noonan siblings Katie and Tyronne, the band had a successful debut in Polyserena before falling out of the limelight almost as quickly as they arrived. Having reformed for a set of 20 year anniversary shows, the Brisbane five-piece set about reviving the glory days. Katie Noonan has always been known for her big voice, and it was again on display during Breaking It Slowly even if the outdoor venue didn’t do her any favours. Tyronne Noonan showed that his greatest influence was Jeff Buckley with the slow burn of Today from the bands second album. The biggest George hit Bastard Son was the most well received tune of their set, but George were a pretty horrible band two decades ago and time hasn’t done them any favours.
Missy Higgins has grown up in front of audiences eyes. She was a young woman when she first hit the radio and had a rapid rise to becoming a household name. Higgins has songs on the youth radio stations and also traverses commercial radio and adult contemporary. It is a rare gift to be able to tick so many boxes. Higgins is now a mother and has a career that has gone well over a decade, and is the type of artist that is the perfect fit for having her honest narratives accompanied by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Conductor Nicholas Buc made sure that WASO was organised and ready before Higgins perched at her piano, and steered the orchestra into Katie. Higgins most recent album finds her covering songs of other Australian artists and she would give some of these an airing tonight. The Angels No Secrets was slowed ever so slightly with some of the emotion taken out of it without Doc Neeson’s distinctive voice. The orchestra held their own though to make moments swell with precision, but it was Higgins own tunes in which she fared the best. Going North recalls the time that the songwriter spent in Broome and was laced with harmonies from her band members.
Whilst it is commendable to pay tribute, Higgins was on a hiding to nothing when tackling the finest tune of one of the best live bands in the country. The Drones Shark Fin Blues lacked the passion and vitriol of the original although the orchestra tried to save the day with a dynamic crescendo. All In My Head followed and was cinematic as if taken from a Disney movie, before the Melbourne singer spoke of her love of The Walking Dead which has prompted a new song that takes the form of a post-apocalyptic love story.
There were plenty of fine moments throughout with Higgins pulling out the ukulele and forgetting the words to the lullaby that she has written for her son Sammy. Kylie Minogue’s Confide In Me was given a major work-over that saw the orchestra playing in a staccato fashion that gave the tune a Bond Theme feel. Whether singing in her broad Australian accent as she bought attention to Syrian refugees or playing her mega-hits Special Two and Scar, Missy Higgins and her band had the many thousands in attendance in the palm of her hands.
The rain started to fall as Higgins was about to kick into her last song and she begged for four more minutes of people’s time. She needn’t have asked and no one was going anywhere once the opening strains of a lush string intro to Steer rung out. It was an effervescent ending to a very tidy set by an artist who crosses many generations. Missy Higgins is the kind of artist that you may never think to dig her CD’s out of the collection at home, but when confronted with her, you remember how charming she and her songs really are.
Photos by Mikaela James Photography