Kate Miller-Heidke’s Zoo Twilights performance was pure magic
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Kate Miller-Heidke’s Zoo Twilights performance was pure magic

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Wrapping up the enormous season of 2018 Zoo Twilights performances, in which the Melbourne Zoo opened its gates after hours for the likes of Jet, Hiatus Kaiyote and The Preatures to serenade the masses – with all proceeds helping to save the Eastern Barred Bandicoot from extinction – Kate Miller-Heidke presented a phenomenal finale.

With the scent of mosquito repellent wafting through the warm air as the sun sank behind the stage and fairy lights twinkled in the trees, it was as if summer had returned just for the evening. Families and friends gathered on the sea of picnic blankets adorning the grassy field in front of the stage, waiting for the magical performance guaranteed to ensue.

Kate Miller-Heidke appeared, opening with ‘The Tiger Inside Will Eat The Child’, ‘Sing For Me’ and ‘Vertigo’, the latter showcasing Miller-Heidke’s renowned vocal acrobatics in the series of ‘do do dos’ which cap off the song – something she confessed has been described to her as everything from “a yodelling ambulance” to “Enya on crystal meth”.

Alternating between her keyboard and an array of handheld percussive instruments throughout the performance, while her guitarist and husband Keir Nuttall, back-up vocalist Jess Hitchcock and a string quartet added texture to the melodies swelling through the night, the best instrument onstage remained Miller-Heidke’s voice. Not only is her vocal range remarkable but the sounds she can produce are truly mesmerising and, quite frankly, inhuman.

Miller-Heidke acknowledged the recent occurrence of International Women’s Day, before playing the song she penned in honour of the day a few years earlier, ‘You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude’, which only made the track’s pointed lyrics more poignant. Between the all too relatable lines of ‘You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude’ and emotionally rich tracks inspired by true events such as ‘Sarah’ and a Tina Arena number the pair composed together titled ‘When You’re Ready’, the evening was wrought with heartfelt sentiment.

However, Miller-Heidke made sure the mood didn’t dampen, keeping the energy from dropping with upbeat tracks such as ‘Can’t Shake It’, which had parents and children dancing and clapping, ‘Caught In The Crowd’ and a soulful rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘Dance With Somebody’.

Further showcasing her spectacular vocals, Miller-Heidke performed two songs from her children’s opera The Rabbits, based on the book by the same title, and one from her more recent theatrical endeavour, a musical version of Muriel’s Wedding – inviting the show’s leading lady onstage to help deliver the duet.

Meanwhile, Keir Nuttal weaved elaborately looped melodies across lengthy guitar solos in ‘Humiliation’ and ‘Words’, the latter seeing him alternating between guitars to create a seamless acoustic and electric composition as the crowd watched on, mouths agape. It was here that Miller-Heidke and co. bid the zoo-comers farewell and left the stage, though they were barely gone a moment before reappearing with a glimmering rendering of ‘Last Day On Earth’ to bookend the evening.

Kate Miller-Heidke is an artist who is only done justice in a live setting. The nuances of her vocal abilities, her wit and the theatrical element of her musical personality are suited to the stage and, when witnessed firsthand, are unlike anything else. Furthermore, a voice so classic and operatic belongs beside a string quartet and the combination of all these qualities made for a performance not soon to be forgotten.

Highlight: Having seen Kate Miller-Heidke perform without a string quartet before, the addition of those instruments and the way they suit her voice was sublime.

Lowlight: Not having the foresight to take a blanket to sit on.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Words’.