Show Review: Kate Miller-Heidke with Goh Nakamura at Cafe Du Nord, 6/22/2010

by Gordon Elgart on June 23, 2010

Kate Miller-Heidke welcomes you with open arms.

Being blown away by an opener is a rare and wonderful treat. It happened a couple months back when I saw Ben Folds at the Warfield Theater. His opener, and tonight’s headliner, was Kate Miller-Heidke. She’s an Australian singer-songwriter with considerable talents in both. She’s smart, too, because on the merch table at the Warfield was a slip of paper to take home letting everyone know she was playing Cafe Du Nord in the near future. Her newly minted fans took that paper and came out to Cafe Du Nord last night, ready to blown away again.

Tonight’s surprise opener was Goh Nakamura. I say surprise because he didn’t know until a few hours before the show that he was going to open, and I didn’t know it until he walked on stage at 8:00 PM. Goh got all sorts of comments in my notebook, including “this one sounds like Neil Finn,” “here he sounds like Elvis Costello,” and the overheard comment, “he could open for Jack Johnson.” Two out of three ain’t bad. He often loops his acoustic guitar, and uses effects to make the guitar sound like any manner of things, sometimes sounding like an acoustic Animal Collective.

Nakamura commented on the inappopriateness of his leather jacket.

Cafe Du Nord had set up chairs in the main room, which usually signals a poorly attended show, and sure enough, during Nakamura’s set, there were still chairs available out of the 50-or-so available, but between 8:30 and the 9:00 beginning of Miller-Heidke’s set, not only did the chairs fill up but the standing room area behind these seats was full of excited spectators. When she and her husband/guitarist Keir Nuttall walked on stage, the place exploded with screams and applause. And she had yet to sing a note! When she mentioned having opened for Ben Folds, there were many screams of “you were awesome!” and “Ben Folds! Whoo hoo!” which led me to believe that yes, these were people who had that same slip of paper.

So could she blow us away again? Absolutely! Kate Miller-Heidke is a strong songwriter, but an incredible singer. She often sings like a shy schoolgirl, and then without notice will turn into an operatic diva. Sometimes she’s soulful, and other times she’s doing interpretations of synthesized strings. It’s spectacular. She’s got an album, Curiouser, and if you had this album (which you should), you’d find that you’re getting an entirely different experience in person. On the album, you’ve got multitrack vocals, a full band, and some of her charm is hidden behind the sheen. Live, she’s a dynamo, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and occasional piano.

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Keir Nuttall can manage to be funny just by singing backup vocals.

She’s also a bit of a raconteur, telling stories of touring in West Virginia, signing underwear at an Australian music festival in the dead of summer, and having her huge hit single, “Last Night on Earth,” rise to prominence as the soundtrack to a dying pregnant teenager on the Australian soap, Neighbours. There’s some good punchlines to these stories. I’d hate to ruin them, for I’d really like you all to hear them for yourself. I mean, when was the last time someone really blew you away?

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Photos by David Price. There’s always more on his website.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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