Live Review: Missy Higgins, Butterfly Boucher

19 June 2012 | 3:28 pm | Brendan Hitchens

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Butterfly Boucher, her real name, looks and sounds like a merger of Megan Washington and Amanda Palmer. She plays a mixture of blues, folk and rock'n'roll, each with an endearing quirk. Lyrically, it's first-person relationship despair and rarely deviates, with current single, 5678, and its shout-out-loud refrain the crowd favourite. Formerly known to many as a name in the liner notes, Boucher's early set puts her centre stage and is testament to why Higgins not only chose her as support act, but also co-producer, occasional co-writer and member of her backing band on latest recording, The Ol' Razzle Dazzle.

Missy Higgins walks on the stage of this majestic venue wearing a sequined dress that matches the artwork to her latest album, which this tour supports. It's as captivating as the music itself. Within the first handful of songs she asserts herself as a triple threat: songwriter, musician and performer. Alternating between piano, guitar and even keytar, she faultlessly wraps melodies around chords and delicately coils them into words. She is repentant of her five-year recording absence, but some things are worth the wait.

If I'm Honest sounds like Paul Kelly. Musically minimal, driven by acoustic guitar and a restrained organ, it's Australian storytelling at its romantic best. True to its name, it's heart on sleeve and lyrically raw. During Tell Me I'm Wrong, the closing song to her 2004 debut, she strikes a wrong piano chord. Joking afterwards, “That's what happens when I look at a request on Twitter right before the set.” Her relationship with the audience is a constant focus throughout the evening. She asks us to join in vocally, responds to hecklers and opens up about the inspirations behind her music. She speaks of the anxiety of expectation, from outside and within, which becomes a personal prelude to Everyone's Waiting. Brother Dave joins her onstage for Cooling Of The Embers, a dedication to their late grandmother. Again, it's deeply personal and leaves many in the audience teary eyed.

Rejecting the charade of encores, she instead extends her set, much to the pleasure of the audience. Returning to the piano to play Scar, she then closes with Steer, prefacing it by saying, “It's about realising freedom is a choice; a state of mind.” It's a song about controlling destiny and with her new album and tonight's performance she has done just that.

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