Kate’s creativity in full flight

7 July 2022

Kate Miller-Heidke brings insight and joy with her long-awaited Child in Reverse tour. Bourby Webster discovers a musical genius at the peak of her powers.

‘Child in Reverse’, Kate Miller-Heidke ·
Perth Concert Hall, 6 July 2022 ·

I first experienced Kate Miller-Heidke on morning TV many years ago, singing her quirky yet brilliant hit “Words” and I was captivated. An operatic voice, inventive and intriguing lyrics, a distinctive appearance that is both beautiful and memorable, and a use of tonality that brought a fresh sound to the pop world. 

Fast forward to 2022 in the Perth Concert Hall and I witnessed a swan in full flight. Her much-delayed Child in Reverse tour, promoting an album of the same name, opened with Didirri, a Melbourne-based singer songwriter, whose gentle and highly personal songs with simple guitar accompaniment were woven together with hilarious stories. He set the scene perfectly. 

Before and after Didirri’s set, a rich soundscape created theatrical tension, heightening the audience’s sense of anticipation. It was a clever touch. 

When Miller-Heidke emerged, accompanied by a banging instrumental version of the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the musical Annie, the audience cheered – it had clearly been a long wait for her Perth fans.  

KAte Miller-Heidke holds her microphone as she stands in front of her band: a guitarist, cellist and bass guitarist are in the background
Kate Miller-Heidke and band form a symphony of sound. Photo: AMNplify

Miller-Heidke opened the concert with “A Quiet Voice” from Child in Reverse, with her husband, the ridiculously talented Keir Nuttall, on guitar. As the set progressed, she was joined by many more gifted musicians: Isaac Hayward (cello, piano, electronics, vocals); Sam Pankhurst (double bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electronics, vocals); and Jess Hitchcock (vocals, percussion). Together, they formed an orchestra, a symphony of sound creating an infinite variety of textures, timbres and emotions. It was glorious. 

Whether you’re a hard-core fan or, like me, hearing her new songs for the first time, you could not help but be captured by the evolving sound. Miller-Heidke is an artist who doesn’t fit into the basic ‘four chords’ category. 

“Oh Vertigo” was a brilliant showcase of Miller-Heidke’s vocal control and dexterity, while “People Pleaser” contained lyrics that so many of us can relate to: “I am not an automaton | I’ve got my own thoughts and dreams | I can’t be a people pleaser anymore.”

Miller-Heidke’s gift isn’t just her musical abilities. She has insight into the human condition – empathetic yet always with a spark of joy and hope – that speaks for us all. 

The performance journeyed through songs from Child in Reverse, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical (Miller-Heidke and Nuttall wrote the music and lyrics for this Australian show: “It was our dream gig”), and her big hits “Wuthering Heights” and of course, “Words”.

Highlights included seven-year-old audience member Lily joining Miller-Heidke on stage for “Caught in the Crowd” and the folk song “Lay Fallow”. The encore, “Zero Gravity”, her Eurovision entry in 2019, was a fitting finale, after a deserved standing ovation. 

Seeing the mixed audience – families with their kids, dads with their daughters, the pair of mates in front of me in their flannelette checked shirts and stubbies, and musician friends – reinforced that music, good music, is universal. As Miller-Heidke concluded: “I love that we come here as strangers and leave with something in common.”

The singer and her incredible band left a lasting impression on us all. Long may she keep experimenting and creating such refreshingly unique songs that give so much joy. 

Pictured top: Kate Miller-Heidke in full flight. Photo: Adrian Thomson AMNplify

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Author —
Bourby Webster

Bourby Webster is the Founder and CEO of Perth Symphony Orchestra one of WA’s newest and fastest growing arts companies. She is a graduate of Oxford University in Music and the Royal College of Music and is a professional violist, lecturer, presenter, and producer. She can’t even look at a playground as she suffers chronic motion sickness.

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