Kate Miller-Heidke remains one of Australia’s most important pop torchbearers

Kate Miller-Heidke remains one of Australia’s most important pop torchbearers

Photo by Andrew Bibby
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Words by Kate Streader

It was a dazzling performance from the famed singer.

“It’s not just the voice, it’s the spirit.” These are the words Tina Arena uses to describe the magic of Kate Miller-Heidke; a notion truly realised in a live setting.

Arena joins us only briefly, delivering a stunning duet of ‘When You’re Ready’ which the pair wrote together, before disappearing behind the curtains again, yet her words sit quietly in the room for the remainder of the evening.

A Kate Miller-Heidke performance is somewhat of a melting pot of opera, comedy, pop and theatre. Her vocal abilities are truly nothing short of breathtaking, yet she never takes herself too seriously.

This year alone she has represented Australia at Eurovision and debuted her musical adaptation of Muriel’s Wedding around the country, yet when speaking of these feats Miller-Heidke is far from boastful.

Instead, when reflecting on the “little talent show” she recently took part in, she simply recalls colourful descriptions of the extravagant look she donned for her performance, such as “the swaying toilet brush”, as coined by her father-in-law.

And when she sits herself down at the grand piano to play her new single ‘Ernie’, an elegy to the difficulties of being a new parent and the sheer joy it instils despite sleepless nights and the never-ending swirl of anxious thoughts, Miller-Heidke admits her young son isn’t present tonight because he hates her singing.

“He says it makes his ears cry,” she laughs. Funny, tonight it’s having the same effect on my eyes.

Dressed as if she were an exquisite ornament you’d top your Christmas tree with in a towering spiked golden crown and shimmering red gown, Miller-Heidke looks every bit the superstar she has proved herself to be across her career.

Flitting between the grand piano, the microphone and a tambourine as she regales an onslaught of hits – ‘O Vertigo!’, ‘Sarah’, and ‘Rock This Baby To Sleep’ among them – we were further reminded of her magic.

Yet it’s the moments in which Miller-Heidke’s personality slips through that she really shines as a performer, like when she employs her manic cackle amongst a wash of blood-red light in the seething ‘You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude’ or when she joins her backup vocalist Jess Hitchcock for a duet of a track penned for her Muriel’s Wedding musical.

You’re fucking amazing,” they sing in a vocal spar, amongst a sea of compliments; a testament to the power of female friendship as told by the story’s main characters Muriel and Rhonda.

The ever-humble Miller-Heidke even finds herself stepping back into the shadows, patiently watching on as her partner in music and life, Keir Nuttal, goes on a ridiculously indulgent, longwinded and utterly brilliant guitar solo during ‘Words’ – complete with intricate loops, dad dance moves and a musical duel against cellist and pianist Isaac Hayward.

When the troupe leave the stage having not played the Eurovision single we’re all here to hear – it is her Zero Gravity tour, after all – it’s obvious there’s an encore coming. Yet Miller-Heidke surprises even herself when she appears after leaving to her second standing ovation of the night to perform her infamous operatic rendition of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’.

“I never do this,” she laughs as she calls to Nuttal to rejoin her onstage.

And when it’s all over, having laughed, cried and endured 90 minutes of goosebumps, we all flee Hamer Hall with the theatrical trill of Miller-Heidke’s catchy vocal acrobatics doomed to swirl in our heads for the rest of the evening.

Highlight: The Tina Arena duet. Nuttal’s guitar solo being a close second.

Lowlight: Staying out past 10pm on a Tuesday night… yes, I’m boring.

Crowd favourite: ‘Zero Gravity’.