A powerful jazz infused voice and sizzling piano are a knockout combination, but Missy’s band lack the necessary punch.

Missy Live WPMissy’s piano lead pop is proving a success around Australia, hence her now playing a close to capacity Brisbane Convention Centre after a Tivoli visit in June earlier this year. The ARIA gong for Best Adult Contemporary Album gives an indication of where Higgins is currently placed in Australian music.

Her non descript band take the stage before the vacant, spotlit keyboard is filled by Higgins herself, blonde in highlight and of short skirt against the drabness of her band, shows who is the star. Save for Butterfly Boucher on bass, who possess the only edge of the night.

The live arena gives Higgins the chance to add intent to her rather restrained album tracks. Alas, she opts for similarly timid arrangements, with the pedestrian drumming a case in point. As is the superfluous guitar player, wearing a pained expression when delivering inaudible backing vocals and playing so polite it is barely apparent in a show desperately needing oomph.

It was left to the string section to offer redemption from this sin. Only when the cello and violin were added to the live sound did the songs become fuller and stronger, creating depth and emotion to tracks like Warm Whispers and Special Two, something which ought to be employed on a more regular basis. These rare moments lift the performance from coffee shop pleasantness to show stopping excellence, which increasingly captures the undivided attention of the audience. There is clearly a connection between Missy and her fans, evidenced by numerous call outs of ‘We love you, Missy,’ an appreciative audience perhaps, but not so discerning.

Yet for all this, Missy’s voice is a joy to hear, and is captivating when alone with a piano, a performance stripped bare. It would be a trial for her to perform for two hours in this fashion, but the few songs treated this way, including ‘Where I Stood’, are pure highlights, clearly showing her fine talent of perfectly pitched vocals intertwining with her nimble fingers as they frolic around the keys. Again when the strings join her, these songs are elevated to greatness.

Higgins puts in quite a shift, acoustic and electric guitars, piano and keys, all displaying her musical gifts. ‘Busy’ Higgins is relieved of some pressure by the punky Boucher, who stands all rebel moodiness with an oversized bass between the mundane band and the show’s star. Her presence, with backing vocals, harmonica and in-between song chat, add some visual thrill to a show which concentrates on the music.

Unashamed Desire, a co-write with Boucher, is the only track on The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle to step away from skinny latte and cinnamon toast feel of the record. Live, it should stalk the stage with menace, yet is still on a leash, unlike the previously unanimated Missy. Free from instrument duties, we see a singer cut loose, jumping, arms in the air, physically showing the emotion of the song.

After a pretend break for an encore, Scar is the final climax to which the audience show full appreciation, as Steer then closes the set.

The small batch of songs to hit the highs display the potential in the Higgins live show. Her undoubted musical mastery though, is somewhat lost in the more traditional arrangements and a Nashville-based band lacking spirit, a well-oiled engine, but it sticks too close to middle of the road. To take these live shows a step further Missy needs to find the right sonic blend and utilise it more frequently. Then she’ll have a live show to back up her undisputed talent and showcase her musical magic and special, honeyed-jazz voice in a way it so fully deserves.

Photograph courtesy of Gaylia Johnston 2012.

2 Responses to “A powerful jazz infused voice and sizzling piano are a knockout combination, but Missy’s band lack the necessary punch.”

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