Missy Higgins - Manchester Academy 2 - 25.6.06

It's a sultry summers evening, England have just beaten Equador in the World Cup and the streets of Manchester have an almost carnival atmosphere. This itself would make a very memorable and enjoyable Sunday, yet in the grand scheme of things this is merely an horse d'oevre, the main course is yet to come. She comes in the form of Melbourne warbler and tinker of the ivories Missy Higgins (think a fiestier, antipodean, Norah Jones or a less kooky Tori Amos). Regular readers of this correspodent (a big shout out to the Preston Posse and NPG disciples) will recall I gave her debut album "The Sound Of White" a glowing review and you must have taken my kind words to heart and snapped up tickets in a furious frenzy as the venue has been ceremoniously upgraded from the cozy confines of the Academy 3 to the larger Academy 2 and still its sold out. You can almost see the pound signs in the eyes of the wily touts hovering outside the venue like scavegining vultures.

Inside the venue there's the usual lovey dovey couples and older musos but surprisingly more lesbians together in one room than the entire audience of a Scissor Sisters and KD Land show put together. Its refreshing to see as gigs should reflect the melting pot of diversity this fine nation has in adundance.

This is the very last date of Missy Higgins tour, but there isnt any evidence of lethargy or the musicians just simply going through the motions. Missy is at home whether she's at the the side of the stage as the mistress of the keys or up front clutching an acoustic guitar. Her musiings on lyrics are inspirational with explanation on ideas behind the songs coming from a spiritual plane. Higgins doesnt patronise the audience (that means talking down to you - ha ha says the jokes editor) with inane utterances such as "I really wanna see you dancing to this one" or this other priceless nuggest of gig speak false modesty "off the places we've played on the tour, you guys have easily been the best". Being Australian Missy is down to earth and level headed and invites us, the humble fans into her world coming across as genuine, intelligent and extremely likeable.

The first song of an extradordinary 20 song set that lasts well over ninety minutes is "Night Minds" which sees Missy alone behind her piano baring her soul with a mature texture of vulnerability in her voice delivering the line "put your face in my neck and let it fall" with brittle fragility. This isn't just a platform for her album, not on your nelly. She's just bursting at the seams to preview brand new material, such as "Sugar Cane" which introduces handsome young guitarist Josh Cunningham to her ever growing legion of fans. The rest of the band saunter on shortly afterwards and I love the way how harmonically they play together selflessly and professionally.

"The River" is an emotional ballad which packs one hell of a dramatic punch while "Angela" a possible future trck on her next album is a welcome foray into folk territory with more reliance on guitars rather than piano which was inspired by an old black and white photograph of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. When Missy innocently enquires if there's any Australians in tonight, there's an uproarous cheer of recognition from our chums down under. Perhaps for tonight we should re-christen this city Ozchester.

The more relationship type songs put me in mind of vintage Alanis Morrissette minus the pretension and self pity. "The Cactus That Found The Boat" is the best song Sheryl Crow never wrote. Missy belts this out with aplomb as adept as singing a ballsy blues song as she is at expressing herself during the more introspective songs. "Scar" is such a jolly, jaunty song with a poppy melody and piano hooks that Ben Folds would be jerking himself silly that he hadn't thought of it first. There's a twang of country guitar during "Going North" whch is all about discovering the child within.

Missy Higgins thanks everyone from her guitarist and trusty rythum section to all the crew involved and most of all the appreciative audience who aren't shy in showing their support. She finishes of the splendid set with the title track of her album "The Sound Of White" which has Missy's ozzie accent proudly prominent on this slow, mellow and quite sad song which is a sobering thought to end a night of substanding music.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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