It’s a bloody cold night and I’m not in the mood to coat-up and leave the house to see Ben Folds’ support at the 02 Hammersmith. That said, I’ve got a ticket and I said I would.
I’m glad I did. Winding through the barrier system I get inside and couldn’t have timed my arrival better. I take my place on the sloped incline and instantly a man and a woman walk onto a stage full of instruments. Kate Miller-Heidke is an Australian. She comes on, opens her mouth, and gets massive support from what would seem a crowd who already know her . We are in West London and it is a second home to many Antipodeans. I don’t know her, never heard of her, but am greeted with a slight blonde – pretty in pink – who has a voice which would smash glass. Her guitar accompaniment is, in fact, it turns out – after I whip through the press release – her husband Keir Nuttall. From her videos on You Tube she plays without a complete band . You would never know – the acoustic guitar, keyboard, tambourine, and shaker work very well and with that one very wide vocal range I’m not left wanting.
Politics in Space was first up – a take on the sixties and how we should “all get over it” as it happened fifty years ago. Her vocal range borders on the operatic here and she breaks into a style that is demure then angsty – bizarrely it all comes together. After reading her bio, it becomes clear why this is – she’s had operatic training and loves musical theatre.
But it’s not all giggles. There are serious and very emotive moments.
Caught in The Crowd is her tale of a lingering childhood regret – no ironic twist here – a simple story about her time at school with an underlying anti-bullying message.
Between songs she speaks anecdotally about her music and tells us how the Chinese government ‘censored’ her choice of song when she was invited to sing at the opening of the Australia Pavilion – she chose something very risque – they heard it – she was asked to change it and of course, she obliged.
A tragic tale of unrequited love Dreams, I Love You, transported (certainly me) to a Parisian speakeasy. There were plenty of operatic vocals here with a note which lasted for what seemed like minutes but in reality it was more like thirty seconds, so where she found the breath for the throaty ‘I love you’ immediately afterwards sums up that training.
Can’t Shake It probably was one of the funniest of the set – tackling her inability to dance and again a song which resonated with the crowd – ‘somebody called the nurse thought I was having a fit. I execute the moonwalk like I stepped in shit’
It’s her wit and sense of fun that keeps the crowd enthralled – of the five hundred on the floor I’m taking a wild punt that they’ve not come to watch musical theatre but someone singing about an ex who suddenly got in touch via a popular social networking site. The tale of a former love who treated her badly, and who left her broken hearted, suddenly wants to be friends with her on Facebook and her response is: “Are you fxxxxxx kidding me?”
As her set came to an end there were rapturous whoops of cheers and as Ben Folds band tuned up Kate was on the Merch desk signing her new album Curiouser (sic). Its £15 price tag didn’t put punters off either – there was a steady stream who were willing to pay for the CD and her signature. Who said buying music was over?
Kate Miller-Heidke at the 02 Hammersmith, Sunday 20 February 2011.
If you fancy seeing Kate she’s back in London on 24 March playing the Water Rats, Grays Inn Road.