2021 Sounds Better Together: Missy Higgins, Busby Marou @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Wednesday 27 January, 2021
Header and footer images by Valerie Lee
Once we’re all settled in our seats/pods – drinks in hand and food ordered from our seat via mobile phone, awaiting text notification when it’s ready for collection from one of the food trucks parked on the other side of the hill – Rockhampton duo Thomas Busby and Jeremy Marou (plus one additional backing muso) open this evening’s proceedings. Busby Marou’s song of the night is Gone, dedicated to those among us mourning lost loved ones – what a moment! Audience members take this opportunity to reflect, honouring the memories of those dearly departed souls that left empty spaces in their hearts.
“How exciting is this? We’re at a gig!” Missy Higgins enthuses, before taking her position on a piano stool and launching into opener, Nightminds, solo. Commencing a show in this way could fall flat in less capable hands, but the purity of that voice – with Aussie accent on full display – immediately silences all in attendance. There’s nowhere for her to hide while performing in solo mode, but Missy never falters. She needs no bells, whistles or frills, but her name “MISSY” is ‘up in lights’ – in giant font – on the video screen behind her.
Missy reveals there was some backstage debate as to whether her stage attire – a coral long-sleeved top underneath sleeveless floral jumpsuit, mid-calf-length to expose chunky white trainers – was “too Play School host”, but she totally owns the look: “I’m choosing to go with it; I’m channeling Justine Clarke.” She taps into an endless reserve of emotion during tonight’s performance, and charming between-song banter further endears us to this superb musician.
Introducing If I’m Honest, Missy reveals she initially wrote this song for Keith Urban, since writing songs with other artists in mind was a tactic she would often employ to overcome writer’s block. She tells us she did actually send this song to Keith, but hee politely declined, and Missy reckons it was probably the “promiscuous undertones in the lyrics” that weren’t on-brand for the decorated country-pop star. Hearing said song with this added insight, we can totally imagine Urban singing it – his loss, Missy’s gain!
“If they would let me trade/ I’d give a year for half a day/ Just curled up on the sofa with you…” – Carry You, which Missy wrote for the outstanding Tim Minchin-starring Australian drama series Upright, is a precious gift.
The backing vocals – provided by Jane Tyrrell and Clio Renner, the latter also supplying extraordinary keys accompaniment this evening – are sublime, like lovingly-placed layers of gossamer to enhance, but never pull focus from, Missy’s glorious pipes. The soaring melisma Missy demonstrates during Secret leaves us bug-eyed and shaking our heads in disbelief.
We’ve been eagerly anticipating The Special Two all night, and this fan-favourite tear-jerker reduces us to heartbroken puddles as elevated phone torches illuminate the hillside to spectacular effect. The audience singalong is deafening as we belt out the lyrics with gusto, trying to pour as much raw emotion into our renditions as Missy has all evening: “And we would only need each other, we’d bleed together/ Our hands will not be taught to hold another’s, ‘cause we’re the special two…” – someone call a wambulance! Missy’s delicious timbre is further elevated by the excellent acoustics of Sidney Myer Music Bowl’s natural amphitheatre setting, and we’re truly not worthy.