Kate Miller-Heidke’s return to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival stage sees the quirkily magnetic Australian singer-songwriter relaxed, in full swing, and emotionally giving of herself in Catching Diamonds. The show has a cut-down feel, but it’s precious and intimate, with the singer accompanied only by her guitarist husband, Keir Nuttall, and partnering vocalist Jess Hitchcock (who presents her own show, A Fine Romance, on June 13).

Miller-Heidke has chosen songs of introspection, self-admission and defiance. Many take us to dark places of personal regret and remorse, but others punch skywards with iron-fisted resolve.

She revisits some of her feistier numbers such as expletive-laden “Amazing” from the musical Muriel’s Wedding, and offers her best vocal theatrics in the pop-opera song “Zero Gravity”, which she took to the Eurovision grand finals in 2019.

Absent from her setlist is “Where?”, from her opera The Rabbits, or any songs from her newest album due to be released later this year. But much else from the singer’s catalogue is here – from “Words”, which she penned for her debut album Little Eve in 2007, to three of her strongest songs ever from her fifth album, Child in Reverse, of 2020.

The slow-burning “Hectic Glitter” ripples with sexual tension, “Simpatico” impressively showcases her upbeat vocal agility, and “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” shows Miller-Heidke at her most visceral in a powerful rallying call against perpetrators of abuse.

Catching Diamonds grows from the difficult pendulum of emotions experienced in young adult life. In the first song, “Fire and Iron”, from her third album Nightflight, Miller-Heidke sings with hushed intensity about the doubt and insecurities that accompany love’s first awakening. Nuttall’s delicate finger-picking on acoustic six-string guitar underpins this song’s vulnerability. How the two them hold the audience immediately with such understatement is impressive.

She begins to unleash the vocal chords in “O Vertigo”, from her fourth album, with escalating rock-out strumming from Nuttall and perfectly timed backing vocals from Hitchcock. The trio smile as the energy gathers. Then, plunging into minor harmonies, “Sarah” takes a contrasting turn with a harrowing account of a girl’s disappearance on the Gold Coast and self-blaming that wracks those left contemplating the tragedy.

Miller-Heidke is good with her audience, sharing jokes and putting them at ease. One of the funniest moments happens in the song “Fallback”, from the musical comedy Bananaland, which she and Nuttall co-wrote in 2023. It tells of how a protest song aimed at critiquing Clive Palmer’s move into politics gets mistaken as kids’ entertainment. Miller-Heidke is on keys here, jamming away with abandon as she sings.

Keir Nuttall, Kate Miller-Heidke and Jess Hitchcock. Photo: Claudio Raschella

Miller-Heidke is nimble and arty in the lighter numbers. “Politics in Space”, about regret at not being born in the freewheeling ’60s, is great fun, and her delivery in its operatic moments is near pinpoint in precision. Suffice to say, she is virtually without peer in the pop world thanks to her classical training.

Hitchcock is right up to the task vocally as well. Taking the two characters Rhonda and Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding’s “Amazing”, their fluent duetting is one of the show’s high points.

Another is Nuttall’s virtuosic guitar work. His dexterity and the colours he creates, working up and down the fretboard and applying electronic looping effects, make him a veritable one-man orchestra, and his rhythmic tightness is top of the game. While Miller-Heidke looks on admiringly, he dazzles the audience with an extended solo in “Humiliation”.

The real showstopper, though, is “Zero Gravity” toward the end. All three are on fire in this. It is such a strong song that one wonders how it didn’t win at Eurovision. Miller-Heidke hits its high notes with all the accuracy demanded of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria. And she interpolates bits of the latter, too, in a parody of Talking Heads’ “Livewire” at the very end. Expect all sorts of fun and games in this encore. Nuttall even has a go at playing “Stairway to Heaven”, and he proves he is absolutely no slouch at this either.

A lifetime of experiences squeezed into one scintillating show, Catching Diamonds is not to be missed.

Catching Diamonds has its final performance tonight (June 9) at the Dunstan Playhouse as part of the 2024 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which continues until June 22.

Read more Cabaret Festival coverage here.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to https://inreview.com.au/inreview/cabaret-festival/2024/06/09/cabaret-festival-review-kate-miller-heidke/ to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard