The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Missy Higgins proved to be the perfect fit at Bird in Hand Winery over the weekend. Armed with some outstanding arrangements, the Higgins songbook was transformed with this expanded ensemble. There’s always a risk with these sorts of performances that the material might be overwhelmed by all the added instruments, but the songs here were rendered with judicious use of dynamics, employing nice subtlety for much of the show which allowed for some rousing moments of crescendo, used sparingly. The effect was quite something to experience.
And despite the evening chill (Higgins admitted to wearing all the layers she had brought with her), the music and the wine warmed the enthusiastic crowd who were clearly enjoying themselves. Ben Abraham capably opened up the show with his singer-songwriter material, providing just the right mood for this sort of event.
With no new album to promote, the set-list of the main act provided an opportunity to walk through Missy’s back-catalogue: a chance to rediscover some old gems while also introducing a few fresh tunes to the audience. Efforts from her most recent album Oz featured prominently, the orchestra adding further power to her striking reinventions of Australian songs. The Drones’ ‘Shark Fin Blues’ proved a real highlight, building to a stirring cacophony by the end.
With the orchestral backing, earlier tunes like ‘Warm Whispers’ and ‘The Special Two’ sounded new – it was a real pleasure to discover them all over again.
Of the new songs, ‘Oh Canada’ was the standout, with Higgins’ matter of fact introduction personalising the plight of refugees providing some through-provoking context.
With a very personable stage presence, Higgins chatted affably with the buoyant crowd throughout the set, making this feel like a very intimate performance despite the sell-out crowd.
The night finished off with a celebratory trio of songs: ‘Scar’, ‘NYE’ and ‘Steer’, leaving everyone in the right mood. There was no encore, but when you’ve just witnessed 90 minutes of music this good who can complain.
During the show Higgins pondered why she didn’t do an orchestra show like this earlier; we are just very glad that she went down this path, because this one really worked.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor and Libby Parker
Picture by Matthew Trainor