Only Missy Higgins could make a venue as iconic as the Sydney Opera House forecourt feel as intimate as a living room. Of the elite alumni who have had the honour playing such a venue, few have probably done so with their six-month-old baby’s saliva all over their accessories. “I could see my daughter dancing along to that one side of stage,” Missy confesses after belting out ‘Scar’. “I’ve had some nice reminders of her tonight,” she wipes at a large gold piece of jewellery, “I let her suck on my earring before the show.” A quick shot of her daughter, Luna, flashes up on the screens. She’s looking adorable in her protective earmuffs and seems rather unconcerned with her five minutes of fame. Missy, on the other hand, is clearly having the time of her life, entirely comfortable commanding the sold-out crowd. “It’s not every day you play the Sydney Opera House forecourt,” she laughs. You can tell she’s more than a little bit excited to be there.
Her set is a mixture of old and new tunes peppered with stories about how they came to be. ‘Song for Sammy’, written for her son, is a real highlight, as is her ukulele cover of ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’, by Kiss, which she was dared to play during her live show by her husband (by the way, she totally nails it). She dedicates ‘The Special Two’ to all the lovers on Valentine’s Day, a gesture that’s greatly appreciated. Speaking of love, there is a whole lot for Missy. From the sheer volume of voices singing along to every one of her songs, it’s clear that this is no one’s first rodeo.
As the sun sets on this perfect Sydney summer evening, Missy Higgins wraps things up with ‘Steer’ and you can tell that she’s scratching this night up as a career highlight, as she most definitely should. It’s always such a privilege to watch her perform.
After a short break, John Butler opens with ‘Wade In The Water’ followed by ‘Tahitian Blue’ both sung over the cacophony of the Circular Quay fireworks display – it’s quite the impressive entrance. “It feels like we waited a long time to get to this space, and we’re so happy to be here,” he can’t wipe the smile off his face. It’s clear the crowd are very happy to have him there as well, with plenty of long-term John Butler Trio fans making their voices heard. There’s a touch of nostalgia about the evening. Something about the combination of watching these two artists at the same venue again, along with plenty of old favourites getting a good run throughout their set lists that harks back to Homebake festivals of the past. And despite it being a Thursday night, there’s certainly a festival dance floor vibe going on.
John Butler Trio @ Sydney Opera House Forecourt 2019 / Photo: Prudence Upton
‘I’d Do Anything’ gets a run before he launches into ‘Betterman’ followed by ‘Faith’. John loves a chat, and the conversation topics cover, religion, philosophy – all manner of things before he feels the need to reiterate once again, just how much this achievement means to him. “The fact the I’m here spins me out,” he laughs. “I’m really stoked, I’m trying to tell you that this is amazing for me.” While his work with the band (the rest of the Trio – Bryon Luiters and Grant Gerathy, as well as Lozz Benson and Michael Hardy) is incredible, watching him play ‘Ocean’ alone on stage is one of those shiver-down-your-spine live music moments. It’s no secret that John Butler is passionate about the environment and he isn’t shy about using his platform to shine light on the work of the Lock The Gate Alliance, whose supporters condemn risky coal mining, coal seam gas and fracking.
Next up, it’s time for a love song with ‘Just Call’ followed by the title track of latest album Home, inspired by the loneliness of life on tour away from his family. He ends the set with ‘We Want More’ and it’s obvious the crowd do too, despite the gang having flawlessly ticked off every required element of a John Butler Trio gig – the infectious energy, lengthy intros and mind-blowing drum solos and instrumentals. They return to rapturous applause for an encore of ‘Get Funky’, followed by an epic rendition of ‘Zebra’ with a call an ambitious call and response component that John warned us, “Didn’t need to be pretty, just loud”. I doubt he would have been disappointed. “This is a dream come true,” he says before leaving the stage, a statement that probably rang true for plenty of people on the steps of the Opera House last night.
John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins’‘Coming Home’ tour continues tonight. Details here.