The punters arrived at J-Shed, a converted warehouse and thin strip of lawn overlooking Bather’s Beach Fremantle, just before the sun dipped below the ocean horizon. Sunset Events’ newest fortnightly music venue brings bearded hipsters and their floral-dressed girlfriends down for an evening of alternative Australian artists, Coronas, choripan and Western Australia’s trademark golden sunset. Following on from the inaugural performance by Missy Higgins, Kate Miller-Heidke brought her wit, soaring vocal range and impressive musicianship to J-Shed on this particular Friday evening.
The first support act was local soul-man Morgan Bain, who is way too cool for you. At first glance the Triple J Unearthed discovery’s smoothness is deeply satisfying. His set was short, but likeable and catchy, albeit at times a little samey, and worthy of any top-of-the-pops chart. Bain did not shy away from showcasing his talent and ability to hold a stage on his own, without the backing of a band. A solid grasp of loop pedals, keyboard and bluesy guitar work was what’s on the menu and Bain delivered a full-course meal. I found myself asking if he was secretly Aretha Franklin. He perhaps lacked the banter and cohesion of the other two artists but his impressive vocals and budding talent with his instruments made up for his unpolished stage presence. Many other patrons I think would be in the same boat in saying they would see Morgan Bain again.
Following this, Brisbane folk soloist Ayla took the stage to serenade the chilled crowd that was starting to gather in what could possibly be Perth’s chillest venue. The early-20’s singer had been touring the country with Miller-Heidke and Fremantle was her last stop. Unlike Morgan Bain, Ayla stuck to a single instrument, her trusty guitar, to lull the crowd into an even more relaxed vibe. Perhaps more a lyricist than a musician, Ayla demonstrated her very strong talent for storytelling through her songs. Filled with melancholic musings and personal anecdotes, Ayla resembled a younger Jewel with shades of Alexis Bledel meets Daughter.
Her melodies, both vocally and instrumentally, were pleasing to the ears and probably more suited to a Kate Miller-Heidke show than Morgan Bain (who would not seem out of place supporting the likes of Matt Corby). Despite this, Ayla succumbed to the early artist’s flaw of repetition. After a while her pleasant strums blended into one another, not badly, but enough that a full set may not have enough variety to hold an audience’s attention for its entirety. However, Ayla’s star is on the rise and touring with the likes of Miller-Heidke can only develop the young singer’s obvious talent further.
As the sun finally gave way to the night sky and a chill sea-breeze, Kate Miller-Heidke, adorned in a red sequined dress and a gold halo (yes, a HALO!) graced the J-Shed stage. It was glorious. The veteran singer began her set with Vertigo, and immediately reminded the crowd of her seamless musicianship. Halfway through, husband and guitarist Keir Nuttal (accidentally, but maybe on purpose) forgot the notes, however, even such a fuck up was naturally charming. Miller-Heidke’s vocal range was piercing and flawless, as expected. After one such rendition she related to the crowd how a friend described her voice as a “yodelling ambulance”. For classically trained opera singer, this is just effortless. She introduced I’m Gonna Lose My Shit as being the one song of hers containing the “third worst swear word.” In comparison to other songs she followed up with, ‘shit’ was tame enough to have been used in a Disney movie. Her music is something that one needs to turn up loud and drink a bottle of tequila to.
Caught in the Crowd was everything you’d want it to be. New track You’ve Underestimated Me Dude was full of plodding low-key piano notes that evoked the scary, menacing tone it aimed to portray and is something that will become the anthem of alpha women everywhere. Nuttal and Miller-Heidke’s perfect mix of humour, technical prowess and insane vocal gymnastics enthralled the crowd through each song. Dreams was heartbreaking and whimsical and every bit as good live, if not better. The in-jokes between the two were a bit weird but the charm and wit made seem not so out of place. A collaborative song between Miller-Heidke and Tina Arena, When You’re Ready, recounted a story of domestic violence and was both endearing and beautiful. Get Off Your Phone hit the nail on the head and possibly became mine and my partner’s ‘couple’ song. Nuttall demonstrated some incredibly clever layering and sophisticated soundscapes towards the end of the show, proving he is a one-man studio. Sarah’s Song, The Facebook Song, and Psycho Killer rounded out what was an operatic, bizarre and delightful set and made way for her final encore, Last Day on Earth, a song which brings up your lost dreams of things you wanted to come to pass.
Until next time, Kate Miller-Heidke.