Kate Miller-Heidke - Catching Diamonds

Kate Miller Heidke Catching Diamonds Cabaret Festival 2024Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Dunstan Playhouse. 8 Jun 2024


It’s easy to wax lyrical about Kate Miller-Heidke. I’ve seen her a few times over the years, and not only does she never disappoint, she’s now ageing like a fine wine. Sometimes brittle in her early years, she has developed into a mature and oh-so-smooth entertainer, one of Australia’s most iconic and revered female artists. There, I’ve gone and waxed again.


While operatically trained, Miller-Heidke has always given the nod to a broad range of contemporary musics, and tonight was no exception, as we opened with a blast of AC-DC. Short-lived, but funny.


The set opened with Fire and Iron, and as she sang of the love and life lost, you could hear a pin drop. But bar for the susurration of pleasure that seeped through the theatre, no-one was moving.


This is a pared back show, essentially Miller Heidke and music director / accompanist and life partner (baby daddy?) Keir Nuttal on acoustic six string guitar. She’s joined on a number of songs by vocalist Jess Hitchcock (whose own show A Fine Romance opens on June 13). It’s the sparseness that allows the songs to really shine through and showcase the basics – Miller-Heidke and Nuttal’s playing and arrangements. At times there’s an intimacy between them that almost feels like we’re intruding, such is the subliminal communication between them.


Miller-Heidke is a storyteller but they’re not always the beginning-middle-end kind of narrative. Songs like Sarah, which tells of a young woman who was drugged and abducted from a music festival, leaves us hanging; what happened? Sarah has no memory, and the guilt seems to lie more with Miller-Heidke than the abductor – how could she have let this happen to her friend?


A quick foray into Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, which Miller-Heidke wrote with Nuttal, has the audience chuckling through Amazing; this was an opportunity for Miller-Heidke and Hitchcock to have a lot of fun with their vocal duet, and fun they had!


Miller-Heidke has a dry sense of humour, and she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself and drop in a self-deprecating comment, as evidenced by the story of her first single and the comments from ABC listeners, one of whom never wanted to hear it again. Unfortunately he was the only caller…


Pulling us back to the personal, we are jolted with a song about “dancing on the grave of an arsehole”. The incredibly powerful You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore is visceral; the anger and rage Miller-Heidke feels about her childhood abuser is transmogrified to a powerful statement of survival and endurance. Who lives, wins.


Keir Nuttall is an absolute pleasure to listen to. While he exhibits great chord voicings, he is virtuosic in his leads and creates a room of sound with loops and popping rhythms, and the way these two work together with just keyboard and guitar is genius. This reaches its apotheosis in Humiliation with its extended solo and raucous outro.


Words gets an airing, as does the haunting Last Day On Earth and the always gut-wrenching Caught In The Crowd.


And course we couldn’t have a show without a nod to her Eurovision entry, or as English host Graham Norton described it, the “singing windscreen wiper”. For my money, Zero Gravity should have won the bloody thing – it had everything! Most of all, it’s a great song, and with Hitchcock and Nuttall joining in, she absolutely nailed it – again.


Talking Heads Psycho Killer ended out the set (interspersed with a bit of Stairway To Heaven from Nuttal) with a Paint It Black intervention and again we were treated to an impresario performance; the vocal gymnastics performed by Miller-Heidke left us in no doubt that she is at the top of her game, and we are the better for having been there to witness it.


The audience gave her a standing ovation. I’m generally a bit of a sceptic as to the veracity of most standing ovations in Adelaide; audiences appear to give them in grateful obeisance for having a good time, and there have been occasions where I feel I’m in a parallel universe. In this instance; brava.


Arna Eyers-White


When: 8 to 9 Jun

Where: Dunstan Playhouse

Bookings: Closed