once in a red moon
Missy Higgins @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW Australia 08/05/2018 written by Brendan Lewis.
May 2018: The land of Missy Higgins’ past loves is left as nothing but a barren apocalyptic wasteland, full of broken dreams and despair. This treacherous ever-changing wasteland leaves Missy Higgins with a sense of solastalgia, a feeling of distress and depression, caused by the changing physical and emotional environments surrounding her life, which she shares with us tonight and sends her on the path to writing her new album ‘Solastalgia’. A glimpse of light shines up ahead, calling to Missy, will she answer it’s call and make it out of this darkness, or will the ‘Solastalgia’ swallow her whole…
As we enter the musical lands, we are greeted with the first frontier of the journey, a stripped away piano solo by Missy Higgins. The air around her is still, silent and heavy with emotion, as she pours her heart out into every vocal cry, while her piano melodies carry us down a stream of raw emotion. For this song, the sound is crystal clear and perfectly suited for Missy’s piano solo, but how will the sound develop down the stream when the rest of the band emerge.
Missy Higgins now gets up from her piano with an almighty grunt then explains “even with having my water bottle I still grunt like a f****ng old man getting up”, then welcomes us ashore. The landscape at the end of the previous emotional river is lit with 49 Candles (yep, I counted EVERY single one), which gives off a haunting sway vibe with ghostly vocal harmonies floating around Missy’s sorrowful voice, carrying her down the path of the set.
As we walk down this path, Missy’s voice and her bands’ accompanying music guides us with a soft gentle sway in ‘Don’t Ever’, with a delicate breeze of nostagia in its’ major-tone essence. The path spirals and thickens in layers as the drums enter after the songs’ first chorus, followed by Missy’s sweet vocals creeping up like leaves caught in the musical wind before the layers increase dramatically for ‘All In My Head’. The sound mixers prove themselves to the crowd as in this song, the layers grow even thicker like vines surrounding the pathway, yet the sound is spot on, crystal clear and holds all the sounds evenly and comfortably, to compliment one another in perfect symmetry. The ghostly vocal harmonies carry Missy’s exquisite voice as the songs’ nostalgic vibe reminds me of an old village, that you used to visit when you were a kid, but this tale is far from over.
Before reaching our next destination, Missy shares a story of how she had a break from music for a while to try and find herself, she tried meds, they didn’t work, she even tried going to uni, it didn’t work, and in the end it lead her back to music.
The next landscape on the journey is ‘Ten Days’, with it’s more blues-like flicks of the piano and musical scent, nifty show-off vocal improvisations and more harmonious vocal layers (yep, those bloody ghosts are still hanging around). This is followed up by the “revenge follow-up to Ten Days”, ‘Peachy’, a brutal apocalyptic storm of up-beat proportion, and beautiful yet biting vocal gusts.
After opening track off Missy’s latest album ‘Starting Again’ with it heavy-hearted sombre feel and uplifting power-surge nearing its’ end followed by the even darker ‘Red Moon’, Missy shares more stories about making her new album ‘Solastalgia’ and the meaning behind it. She now goes on to tell us how her current partner told her, “there’s not one song on here about me, I want a f****ng love song!” which Missy replies, “have you heard my love songs? They don’t end well, do you really want one?”, and how that lead to her endeavour to write a positive love song. The end result is the next song ‘Futon Couch’, a song about how they met. A gooey girly love song full of bright and bubbly layers and heart fluttering effects with Missy crying out in declaration. This song is a nice cool-breeze of light to the dark wastelands of the show so far.
The lush bright scenery around us is sustained with ‘Song For Sammy’, a quick little song that Missy plays on the acoustic guitar showing off more musical diversity in her skills (ie playing piano and guitar). Missy brings another burst of humour as she over accentuates a high and low vocal note in the songs’ second verse, to really take the piss out of herself. She now invites Gordi onto the stage, who warmed the stage for Missy tonight and the rest of the tour, for an acoustic duet of ‘Sound Of White’, followed by ‘Everyone’s Waiting’, with Missy and Gordi taking turns at leading vocals in a call and response-like manner.
For the rest of this journey which is starting to seem a little less apocalyptic (thanks for messing up the theme for me Missy), we encounter loved classics like ‘The Special Two’, new sure to be hit ‘Cemetery’, further displaying more electronic/pop elements to her sounds, my personal childhood favourite ‘Scar’ and finally uplifting bright finish ‘Steer’. All the songs in the homestretch feature differing layers of blues, pop, soul, acoustic, and even one song that was an up-beat rock song that Missy performs on the electric guitar which seems a bit odd in the set, but it works. We also discover more story-telling from Missy, her dazzling charisma throughout songs as she’s an arm talker and obviously likes to express the music physically (get your minds out of the gutter) and all performed beautifully by Missy with vocal improvisations here and there, more prominently in ‘Scar’ (which btw Missy, it makes it a little hard to sing along to, as you requested, when you’re not singing the normal notes). And finally, Missy tells us that she doesn’t do encores anymore, they tend to piss her off and goes on to re-enact a punters reaction at a concert when expecting more songs. So the journey closes with ‘Steer’, a bright uplifting happy ending to the chaotic apocalyptic love song documentary.
Looking back on this journey, it was really like a documovie of Missy Higgins’ post apocalyptic loves as she calls them. Missy spoke a lot between songs, but she did so in an engaging charismatic way that didn’t drag on spoiling the flow. The musical performance from Missy and her band was spot on and perfectly complemented one another. All in all, I had a great experience and better yet, would definitely go to another Missy Higgins show in the hopefully near future!