Live Review: Missy Higgins, Ella E

27 February 2016 | 11:18 am | Craig English

"Missy Higgins might be Australia’s most affable dag of a musician."

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The mind truly does boggle as to what possessed the City of Fremantle to think that putting a venue behind a rock and a rusty boat shed in the windiest nook of Bathers’ Beach would be a good idea, because it wasn’t at all. Yes, bourgeois little pop-up venues are all the rage with the kids, these days, but this was really taking the piss. A horrendous lack of adequate lighting made for the clumsiest game ever of murder in the dark amongst the crowd, and the chugging noise of food truck generators nearby killed any subtlety the artists on stage were hoping to preserve. Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt even came out at one stage to officially open the new venue, but what was built up to be a big deal was a spectacular let down, despite the talent that had been booked for the evening.

It was really rather endearing watching 16 year-old
Ella E
oscillate between confidently opening herself up to sing with everything she had and retracting nervously into her shell when she was unsure if her voice would carry her to where she wanted to go. In covering songs by both Ben Harper and Johnny Cash – two artists with markedly different styles – you could piece together where E was drawing the inspiration from to refine her vocals. With impressive lyrical craftsmanship in songs like
, she gently let us know that not only is she not just a kid, she could soon have the chops to rub shoulders with the pros.

Missy Higgins
might be Australia’s most affable dag of a musician. It’s a good thing she writes thoughtfully composed songs and infuses as much of her emotional self into her lyrics as she possibly can, because running too far with jokes about ducks and haphazardly spouting dinosaur noises on stage isn’t by any means her strongest suit. All that, though, could be safely attributed to the fact that she’s recently become a mother, and ode to her newborn
Song For Sammy
was a sweet intermezzo of a kind, following a solid set of classics including
Ten Days
. At times, her adlibbed wailing was a little bit over the top, but her band skilfully ran with every twist and turn she threw at them.

Following a heartfelt rendition of
The Special Two
, Higgins turned her attention to the recent Syrian refugee crisis, notably, the horrifying image of baby Alan Kurdi whose lifeless body washed ashore in Turkey in September of last year.
Oh Canada
was the sobering product of her contemplation of the ongoing struggle of all refugees, and closer
was its apt counterpart, underscoring both the human thirst for freedom, everywhere, and Higgins’ expanding global consciousness that may end up being the catalyst for some new material in 2016.