Kate Miller-Heidke @ 9:30 Club

Kate Miller-Heidke live

I really didn’t want to enjoy Kate Miller-Heidke‘s 45-minute set last night in Washington, D.C. My other concert reviews on this site have been full of praise and I wanted to write a scathing review; certainly the Australian’s quirky pop, which I had only limited exposure to prior to the show, couldn’t win me over. I even listened to some heavy-and-gloomy Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the drive to the 9:30 Club, which recently won Billboard’s 2010 Top Club award, just to stay out of the mood.

It didn’t work. Miller-Heidke, accompanied on stage only by guitarist/husband Keir Nuttall, wowed the small crowd of 125 (maybe) who had mostly shown up early for headliner Steven Page (ex-Barenaked Ladies) with her powerful classically trained vocals, wit, and exceptional songwriting. The duo eased into the set with a mellow “Our Song” and eight songs later still had the crowd transfixed by Nuttall’s Rodrigo y Gabriela-like acoustic-percussive-hard rock closing to the grooving “Words.” Everything in between was a solid blend of catchy pop and comedy.

Miller-Heidke’s humor was on display almost immediately. A repeated loud microphone malfunction after “Politics in Space” led to the singer noting, “Someone said it’s D.C., and I thought I was getting shot!” “Dreams (I Love You)” featured plenty of operatic moments, including a 25+ second note (inward breathing and all) followed by a gutteral “I love you!” that channeled Miller-Heidke’s inner Cookie Monster. A frantic cover of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” (again with an operatic moment) preceded crowd-favorite “Are You Fucking Kidding Me? (Facebook Song).” Both resulted in uproars of laughter and surely added to her fan base.

Though most were amused by the silly side of Miller-Heidke and Nuttall, I found their sentimental moments most enchanting. “Caught in the Crowd” and new song “The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child” displayed mature songwriting worthy of ample radio play in America. An upbeat “Shoebox” most convinced me of her talent. The comedic side of Kate Miller-Heidke is undeniably part of her DNA, and she achieves it as well as – if not better than – Regina Spektor, Lily Allen, or Kate Nash, but the same jokes can only go so far. It’s the superb songwriting that will continue to land her awards in her native Australia and success abroad.

[Photo courtesy of Krissy Myers, Flickr.]

Our Song
Politics in Space
Caught in the Crowd
Dreams (I Love You)
The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child
The Real Slim Shady (Eminem cover)
Are You Fucking Kidding Me? (Facebook Song)

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