There’s much more to Kate Miller-Heidke than the “singing toilet brush” (a credit to Miller-Heidke’s father-in-law) or “singing windscreen wiper” (a credit to Graham Norton) who wowed her way to ninth place at the recent Eurovision Song Contest singing her original composition Zero Gravity.
Kate Miller-Heidke. Photography courtesy of SBS
Firstly, there’s the vocal range that allows her to leap from Taylor Swift to Joan Sutherland in a single bar, not dissimilar to Joni Mitchell in her early albums or the late under-appreciated Minnie Riperton. Secondly, there’s Miller-Heidke’s penchant for clever incorporation of opera tricks such as coloratura and Gilbert and Sullivan patter singing into her songs. Thirdly, there’s the songs themselves, carefully crafted works of art that all have a story to tell whether it’s what it’s like to be a mother (Ernie) or regret about not protecting a bullied colleague in her teen years (Caught in the Crowd). And finally Miller-Heidke would not be the success she has become without her collaborators, husband and co-songwriter Keir Nuttall on guitar, musical director IaiIann Grandage, and backing vocalist Jessica Hitchcock.
There was a full house at Adelaide’s Thebarton Theatre for what proved to be a memorable concert, presented as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The Miller-Heidke song catalogue is impressive and there wasn’t one dud or cover in the 90-minute set. The standouts for me were O Vertigo, which Miller-Heidke dedicated to Briony and Rob celebrating the tenth anniversary of walking down the aisle to that track, You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude, penned for International Womens’ Day, The Last Day on Earth, a long-time favourite, and the brilliant and infectious dance track Can’t Shake It.
Nuttall and Miller-Heidke’s versatility and adventurous nature have seen them write a an opera for children and adults called The Rabbits (from which Miller-Heidke and Hitchcock treated us to Where?) and musical theatre in the form of the adaption of the film classic Muriel’s Wedding from which we got the girl power ballad Amazing. While the family-feel to the quartet added to the enjoyment, it was the soaring harmony between Miller-Heidke and Hitchcock that took the concert to its pinnacle in the debut song The Healing Tree created for the Hush Foundation, which commissions original music to play in children’s hospital wards to help soothe the pain.
The encore was Zero Gravity minus the seven-metre poles and acrobats, but a welcome reminder that Miller-Heidke is an artist of substance and that visual spectacle in her performances is just icing on the cake.