Seeing Missy Higgins perform live is like realizing that you’re in love with your best friend. Since her latest album “On A Clear Night” dropped in the spring of 2007, you’ve had enough time to get to know her and her music and you think that nothing can surprise you. But then you see her live, and it hits you like nothing you could have imagined. Nothing’s actually changed, but for some reason everything seems different.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the 24-year-old Australian native explained her view of “Night.”
“I wanted this album to seem really simple when you first listen to it but then the more you play it, the more you discover,” she said. “Hopefully people will feel like it’s one of those albums that’s worth playing a few times.”
And it’s true. The album, which initially appears to be a standard female singer/songwriter repertoire, eventually unmasks itself to reveal a series of stories rife with emotion and history. But it is not until one watches Higgins walk solo onto the dark stage and pound out her booming piano chords that the album comes to life.
Although she gained much of her popularity from “Where I Stood” after it appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Higgins is more than just the standard female singer/songwriter.
In an interview with The Eagle, she explained that the range of music she grew up with allows her a wide pool of inspiration from which she draws her style.
“Whatever I’m listening to at the time, that’s what comes together to create a different sound,” she said. “That’s the beauty of songwriting, you have no idea of what will come up next.”
It’s not just Higgins’ personality that seals the deal, though it doesn’t hurt. Her interaction with the audience at the 9:30 club on Monday night ranged from teasing attempts at executing outdated slang in a Southern accent to a one-sided conversation about the direction of the music industry to an intensely personal story about religion, death and how writing helps her move on.
It’s also the sheer force of her musical talent and presence on stage. On tour with a three-person backup band, Higgins manages to create an intimate atmosphere with the audience while proving that she can hold her own in front of an all-male band. At times quieted to almost a whisper, as in the piano ballad “Ten Days,” and at others snarling and edgy as in “100 Round the Bends,” Higgins made no attempt to hide her passion, moving around the stage and bobbing her head while switching skillfully between acoustic guitar and piano.
A surprising highlight was “Secret,” her dark, seductive, bluesy jam about a relationship forced into secrecy. Written using only one guitar string, the recorded version was effective in conveying its message but somewhat simple. A more complex bass line as well as harmonies from the band added a slow, building tension that finally broke at the chorus.
“Forgive Me” was performed as a solo guitar piece, allowing her to vary the tempo and heighten its emotions as her voice echoed through the venue. Higgens emphasized the message of her last song, “Steer:” “Life is just so incredibly short, it’s too short to compromise anything,” she said. “You should just fucking have fun.”