Nothing says Australian summer more than an outdoor concert held at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens with mozzies a flutter, an abundance of food trucks serving up the latest foodie fads and an amazing lineup of homegrown musical talent to make you feel super proud to be Australian.
Melbourne’s newest outdoor concert event A Weekend in the Gardens returned last weekend to mark what felt like the real beginning of summer and to celebrate more Australian (or should I say Melburnian?) music.
Australia’s cherished and always charming Missy Higgins headlined Sunday evening’s show, supported by some fresh and diverse voices and sounds on the Australian music scene including singer songwriter Dustin Tebbutt, Sydney’s indie-folk group All Our Exes Live in Texas and WA’s extraordinary multi-genre artist Harry Jakamarra and his banjo.
There was definitely an air of girl-power as Missy Higgins and her band stepped on stage. Accompanied by the uber-talented Sarah Belkner on keys and Jane Tyrrell on back-up vocals, Higgins took the crowd (way) back to the early 2000s to start her set with Don’t Ever from her debut, award-winning and much-loved album The Sound of White.
Missy Higgins is an authentic and emphatic storyteller and performer – evident in both her unfeigned songwriting and in her humble interactions with the crowd between songs. Her passion for social justice, animal rights and the environment shined throughout the night, particularly in her emotional performances of Oh Canada (written about a young refugee who died fleeing Syria for Canada) and Torchlight (about a young girl seeking justice against the church). Her beautiful rendition of Song for Sammy on the ukulele was just as powerful, written one night in an attempt to lull her young son to sleep; epitomizing just how far Missy has grown as a musician since the release of her first album back in 2004 at just 21 years old.
What really cements Missy Higgins as a musical genius though, is her versatility. From popular Missy favourites such as her number-one hits Scar and Peachy, flawless acoustic performances of The Sound of White and The Special Two on the keys and her upbeat cover of Perry Keyes’ NYE from her 2014 cover album Oz, the show was feel-good from start to end. The warm, clear night sky was also the perfect setting for her uplifting hit Steer, one of my favourites from the night.
If that is not impressive enough, Missy and her band also played How Was I To Know and Cemetery from her highly anticipated new album which hinted at a new, modern sound for Missy, claimed to be inspired by her new-found obsession with post-apocalyptic literature and The Walking Dead.
The crowd of adolescents yelling Where I Stood repeatedly in an attempt to lure Missy into an encore is testament to the fact that her fan base is as diverse as her talents. It was also rare to see a band on stage having just as much fun as those in the crowd – clearly fans of Missy as an artist and as a friend themselves, making the concert even more enjoyable.
Missy Higgins is truly exquisite; an artist with integrity, a heart of gold and undeniable talent as a musician and a songwriter. I am already looking forward to the next Weekend in the Gardens event to celebrate more great Australian music.