Live Review: Missy Higgins and The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra + Ben Abraham – The Plenary, Melbourne (27.11.16)

There are only a few truly perfect pairings in life. A glass of red and a handsome man. Avocado and Vegemite. Taylor Swift and a red lip… And now I’m happy to say I’ve witnessed another; Missy Higgins and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

For all of her accolades, I’ve often thought of Missy Higgins as underrated. When you discuss great Australian artists, you’ll hear names like John Farnham, INXS, Paul Kelly… More recently in the pop space you might hear Sia, The Veronicas and Delta, while a truly unique Aussie sound is going global with artists like Flume at the helm. Amongst all this deserving talent and despite her four albums, numerous hit singles and six ARIA awards, Missy Higgins hasn’t traditionally been a name at the forefront of this conversation.

Finally this somewhat quiet achiever, in comparison at least, has received the ultimate reward for her contribution – the opportunity to perform her catalogue with Symphony Orchestra’s nationwide, but as Missy said herself, most specially, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

It was quite a thing to witness, this Melbourne girl taking the stage to perform some of the most beautiful melodies to come out of Australia, I think ever, with such a revered orchestra behind her. To see her glowing and confident in her home town, shining the spotlight on her band and having her songs brought to life in a way we’ve never seen was truly a thing of beauty. The delicate balance of stature and the epitome of class, mixed with classic Missy Higgins, down to earth charm would be something almost impossible to rehearse, let alone replicate.

The night mixed humour, fun, and nostalgia, with messages full of good intentions and tinge of sadness. Her hits spanned all four albums, with fan-faves like “Scar” and “Steer”, while completely gorgeous, paling in comparison to the big sound and sparkling dimensions of the heartbreaking “Oh, Canada” or (my favourite) “The Special Two”. But it was “Warm Whispers”, a Missy classic, that delivered something unlike I’d ever seen from her before, the orchestra pushing her vocal beyond anything I’d expected, until there was nothing left in the room but pure emotion, passion and the faint sounds of my embarrassing cry.

Missy was supported by Ben Abraham, the self confessed “Indonesian Missy Higgins”, who was the perfect accompaniment to this already perfect pairing. With just a keyboard and a malfunctioning spotlight, Ben held the crowd in the palm of his hand with songs that were so stunningly individual and heartbreaking, that we were downloading his record before we’d left the carpark. We didn’t need to take him up on his idea to just fall asleep with his album on Spotify, playing with the sound muted just because he’s a nice bloke and would make seventeen bucks. We couldn’t get enough. The true heartbreak of the night being there is nowhere to currently get the songs we heard… so Ben if you’re reading this, shoot me a link to “Friendly Fire”, would you?

Their duet at around the halfway point of Missy’s set sent shivers down my spine and was a moment this Melbourne crowd should truly feel privileged to have witnessed. Australian’s do a lot of things well, but nothing more so than when we show true heart, and that was what this night was about. As a 30 year old woman who grew up in Oz, I was lucky enough see the soundtrack of my life last night, brought to me in the most beautiful of ways. We are just so, so lucky for Missy Higgins. Ben Abraham and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra just made the night untouchable.