Review: Missy Higgins @ QPAC (Brisbane)

Missy Higgins at QPAC (Brisbane) on 23 May, 2024 - image © Bill Prendergast
Bill has a love of music (especially Australian), surf, photography, food and family. Favourite countries: Australia, Japan, Italy (in that order!). Favourite music genres: open to everything!

On Thursday night, we are promised a sold-out concert at the fantastic Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, as Australian icon Missy Higgins performs her Australia-wide 'The Second Act' tour.

Higgins has a stunning back catalogue, and promises a two-act set (23 May); the first, a stripped-back set of both older and some very recent pieces and after a short interval, the artist will play through her first album, 'The Sound Of White', in its entirety to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of its release.

It's a beautiful album, containing the song that saw her win the triple j Unearthed award, 'All For Believing', 2001. The music is all the more impactful as it was written by Missy in her mid to late teens.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

It's difficult to understand that someone of such a young age could write about such emotional and weighty issues, and she alludes to this a number of times over the evening. She constantly talks about being authentic to herself, and this is certainly how she presents her work.

The first set kicked off with 'Falling' from her first EP. It is obvious at the outset that Higgins is a great communicator; she discusses each of the pieces prior to playing it, giving some insights on what was driving the thoughts which gave rise to the music.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

With 'Falling' she notes that she was 17 at the time of writing, and that although it's not still clear to her exactly what the subject matter was, it was key to her forming her musical style. 'Falling' was chosen by fans, as Higgins had asked on social media for requests, and this was one of the most requested songs.

As she moves through the song, her voice is incredible, and the piano playing simple yet sublime, perfect for the song. For this first song it is just Higgins on the stage. After playing 'Falling' on the piano, Higgins moves to the guitar for another from her teens, 'Greed For Your Love’.

Higgins trips up on the intricate introduction, swears, and the crowd is in raptures. The song is played beautifully, with the finger picking leading into a light strumming in the chorus, giving some contrast to the music. Missy is soon back to the piano, and indicates a new song is to follow as there is an album about to be released – the crowd goes crazy – with music that is the most exposing music she has released, after her recent separation.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

For the first time, Missy is no longer alone onstage as she invites the four "ladies" to join her at this point for backing vocals. 'You Should Run' is the piece, talking about how complicated her life is. Missy then moves into a piece she'd written in Year 12, a jazzy number ('The Cactus That Found The Beat'), which was written solely to highlight her love of music and the importance of it in her life.

She then plays a crowd favourite from her second album, 'Sugarcane', after a lengthy introduction as to what drove the song at the time. The set winds up with Missy playing electric guitar on the single from the latest album, 'The Second Act', noting the new album is a little less depressing than the others.

After a brief interlude, Missy was back to play 'The Sound Of White'. The famous 'All For Believing' kicks off with Missy on piano, accompanied only by the cello. She moves into two great pieces, 'Katie' and 'The River'. In my review notes, I jotted down that I expected 'The River' to be a highlight of the evening, as it is a great song, stunningly played – but there was better to come!

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Image © Bill Prendergast

After a couple of pieces on piano, including the more upbeat 'This Is How It Goes', Missy introduces "a jazzy number, an outlier on the album" and it's 'Casualty', probably my favourite song on the album. The sublime horn comes in, which I love, and the bass guitarist has swapped for the double bass, played in a staccato, almost slapped, style.

Missy is singing without an instrument, I think the only time for the evening, and the horn solo is extended relative to the studio album and leaves the crowd screaming for more. In this rendition, the single horn sounds like a full brass section, really lifting the vibe of the music.

Missy then moves into 'The Special Two', noting it's the song people most want to talk to her about, searching for its meaning. I could literally hear sobbing behind me, such is the importance of the song and its lyrics to some of the audience.

This led into the two huge final pieces. 'Scar' is probably Missy's best-known song, the one that really lit a fire beneath her career. The crowd of course loves the rendition, and then we have one to go, with Higgins highlighting the importance of the final song and the meaning behind it. It is 'The Sound Of White', the title track of the album. The song is perfect, and winds up with a standing ovation.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

We should show gratitude to people who go out of their way to demonstrate the incredible quality of Australian music and musicians. Missy Higgins does this. Her beautiful Australian accent perfectly complements her incredible vocals.

This concert was stunning, for the music, the instrumentation, and from a visual standpoint, and I look forward to enjoying her concerts in years to come.

One final point of note is the incredible acoustics at QPAC. The acoustics lifted an already strong and clear voice to the next level, and I think it would not have been possible to get a better venue for this show. A great night, and a concert definitely not to be missed.

More photos from the concert.

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