July 14, 2010

Kate Miller-Heidke / Josh Mease - Le Poisson Rouge - July 14, 2010 Draft

Wednesday night was my virgin experience of Le Poisson Rouge. I liked the place; it reminds me of the old Bottom Line in a bigger space. It has the same sort of seating accommodations. Tables are on a general admission first come basis, except for those tables which are reserved for industry people. The center tables are placed side by side in groups of three which made me a little uncomfortable. I went to the show alone and sat at a 3rd table. There were two couples seated in front of me. When one of the guys arrived late, he gave me that who the fuck is this guy sitting at our tables look. But he eventually held hands with his girlfriend across the table and became less conscious of my presence as I did of his.

As the audience waited for Josh Mease to open up the show, The Beatles' White Album played on the sound system and I ate my Caesar Salad ( it was good but a little small for 12 bucks).  The audience was basically preppy college kids and middle age adults (at least I wasn't alone in that respect).

Josh Mease
Josh Mease and Ryan Scott got on stage at 8pm. There was about 3 minutes of dead silence as they set themselves up but once they began the first song it was all good.

The first thing I noticed was how well the two guitarist worked together. For the entire 9 song set, Ryan Scott played mostly lead acoustic and pedal guitar complimenting Josh Mease's laid back vocals.  Josh Mease, who was also playing acoustic guitar, had two mics in front of him.  The mic to his right seemed to be used for mostly vocal looping and effects; the mic to his left seemed mainly for his lead vocals.

Though Josh Mease now resides in Brooklyn, he is originally from Houston, Texas.  I guess that explains the airy quality and definite country flavor of Mease's music which reminds me of Chris Issac minus the Elvis inflections.  Like Issac, there seemed to be a lot of reverb on Mease's vocals which provided a lush sound for his songs.

Like Kate Miller-Heidke,  Mease's arrangements were a bit different from his recordings because he was presenting the songs as a duo and not with a band. I love that about both artists. When artists can present their material in different ways it not only shows their good musicians but that their songs are well written.

Before doing the song, “ I See You,” Josh said “this is a very romantic song - “so feel free to make out with the person next to you.” The image that  kept popping into my head, while listening to Josh Mease's music, was arriving home from work to an apartment filled with tea candles, rose pedals and a significant other waiting in the bedroom.  (Oh boy! -I can hear my friends reading my words and saying ...."and then he woke up").

When Mease introduced the song “White Diamonds,” he said “this is our hit – it's a country song." Basically, Mease sang the song while strumming on his guitar as Scott played lines incorporating the melody. The song was missing the slow thumping bass and brushes on the drum but still held up to the recording.

My favorite song in Mease's set was “Aeroplane.” He introduced it as a “slow jam.” It's a minor blues that goes to a B section with a melody that sounds very Cole Porter. I don't know if the song was intentionally written as a pastiche or as an homage to Porter, but Mease's lyric “I wake up - with the sound - of your voice - in my ear” made me immediately think of Porter's “I've Got You Under My Skin.” Regardless of how or why the song was written, I think it's brilliant.

There was a new song included in Mease's set titled “Soldier,” that stuck out as more serious than the rest. I would like to hear it again. (No one's put it on YOUTUBE.) There were lines about a soldier seeing the ages stretched out in front of him and being back someday. It evoked all the feelings that an enlisted soldier would have before going overseas.

Josh dedicated the next two songs to his girlfriend and then his imaginary grandmother. At one point, Josh's friends cheered him on from the side of the room where the bar is located. Josh responded with “Now, you're making me feel uncomfortable.” Hey – what are friends for?

Josh Mease and Ryan Scott ended the set with a song having a ¾ meter. It felt like there should have been a sing along at the end of the song - but it seemed that Mease hasn't yet found a way to prompt the audience to join him. Ryan Scott played the steal guitar again, only this time he had an effect on it.

I have to emphasize that Ryan Scott is a very intuitive instrumentalist, he knows how to accent, underline and bring color to all of Mease's material. As I said earlier, they really work well together.   Now that I have heard the pared down arrangements of Josh Mease's songs, I hope to check Mease out with his full band sometime in the future.  I'm sure as a soloist, as duo or with a band  - Josh Mease will not dissappoint.

Kate Miller-Heidke
The first time I heard  Kate Miller-Heidke was opening for Ben Folds at Town Hall.  On Wednesday night, she  basically did the same exact set but added 3 extra songs before the last two.  So I most certainly had a feeling of deja vu.  Heidke also told some of the same stories but added some new ones as well. It was all fine with me. Most bands keep the same basic set list and even the same dialogue outline throughout a tour. It usually shows they are tuned into what makes an audience respond and listen.

Before playing the first song of Kate Miller Hiedke's set, guitarist and husband, Kier Nuttall had already been on stage setting up . At around 9PM, Heidke walked through the side doors wearing the same blue dress as in the picture below. With hands by her side, Heidke stood at the mic and sang the ballad “Our Song.” Without emoting through hand gestures, Heidke's voice and small facial movements beautifully conveyed what is a very simply folk ballad.

As with the last time I saw Heidke, she referred to her resentment towards those who grew up in the 60's.  When she followed up by performing “Politics in Space," it seemed like something strange took over her body whenever she went into her operatic voice. During the verse, Nuttall answered Heidke's soprano vocals in his bass register with the words “Pretty Much.” The music and vocal delivery gave the song an ironic twist.

As a duo, Heidke and Nuttall entertain their audiences with humor. He plays the silent geeky musician while she plays the little girl who pokes fun at him. Heidke told the audience that many people mistook Kier Nuttall for Ben Folds when they were on tour together. She said that a man in Texas even asked Nuttall to take a picture with him. Nuttall told the guy he wasn't Ben Folds once the picture had been taken and the guy responded “Don't know what I'm gonna do with this now.” (Funny she mentioned that because I thought Nuttall was Ben Folds as well. When I first saw Kier Nuttall, I was in the last row of the balcony at Town Hall.  I kept thinking he was Ben Folds wearing a wig to cover his receding hairline.

Kate Miller-Heidke then did the song she is mostly known for in the states “Caught In the Crowd.” As I stated the last time around, I liked Nuttall's whistling the main melodic riff for the live version of the song. This time I noticed that Heidke sang a cool descending line on the word “believe” at the end of the song. Once the song was over, Heidke told a story about an 8 year old boy who wanted to sing “Caught In the Crowd” in assembly but was afraid he might not be able to because it included Sex Pistols in the lyric. Since I've already included a “spoiler” for that last story Heidke told, anyone reading this will have to see Kate Miller-Heidke in concert to hear this story's ending for themselves.

Heidke played piano for “Dreams/I Love You,” which I believe has 6/8 meter. But since she plays the song's piano part very rubato, it often feels like she's doing a Stan Getz and playing some odd meter. The piano part appropriately has a stalking quality which reminds me of music that might be played for movie sequence where one person is sneaking behind another. The song's most comical line is “I want you to touch me on my front bottom.” There were few chuckles when Heidke sang the words “I love you” as if she were Linda Blair in the Exorcist and then loud applause when she held a high note for more than a minute at the end of the song.

Heidke and Nuttall went directly into “Can't Shake It,” which reminds me of the Shakespear's Sister song “Emotional Thing,” with the added quirkiness of Lena Lovich's vocal style for the song's intro. After the song, Heidke told the story about someone in Bridgeport Connecticut saying that Kier Nuttell looked like Chuckie from Rug Rats....I've heard it before but it still cracks me up.

There were three beautiful ballads during the show, one which I already mentioned and the other two being “Space They Cannot Touch” and “The Last Day On Earth.” I really appreciated the fact that Hiedke's performance can go from loud and funny to pensive and quiet. When songs are juxtaposed throughout a set in that fashion, it makes me appreciate each song separately. “Space They Cannot Touch” is about bond between two lovers that cannot be broken. The song's sweet sentiment became even more significant when I realized Nuttall is her husband. (Lucky Guy – Lucky Gal!)

When I used the word juxtaposed, I wasn't kidding because Heidke's next song was “God's Gift To Women.” She said it was about a sleezy man from Melbourne. There is a lot of production on the recording of the song but the way Nuttall brilliantly makes it work in concert is by giving it a bit of a reggae feel. Heidke gets a lot of applause from women whenever she performs the last line of the song which is “If you're God's gift to woman, than SHE got it wrong!”

You haven't lived until you have heard Kate Miller-Heidke's operatic version of Talking Heads “Pyscho Killer.” It's very strange how much David Burn's vocal lends itself to operatic interpretation. Heidke manages to make all of Burn's moans and groans from the original song sound like written vocal lines. To make the song even funnier, Heidke tags it with the melody from the "Queen of the Night" aria from Mozart's Magic Flute and then follows that with the last line from Led Zepplin's “Stairway To Heaven.”

Before Heidke sang “The Last Day On Earth,” she explained how the song became a hit in Australia after being used as the music for a TV soap opera advertisement. She said that the ad had a bit of a cliff hanger and then made a few jokes about how death and drama sell. Regardless of how it became a hit, the song really deserves to be one. It's a well written song and one of the best in her catalog.

Heidke stayed at the piano and did what is known as the “Facebook Song.” As soon as she played the first part of the song, I could tell the audience was ready and waiting for it. It's the kind of song to which everyone can relate. I know that first hand, I have asked that same question about people on facebook as she asks in the song “Are you fucking kidding me?” So, let's just say the entire audienced laughed and became one with the song.

Kate Miller-Heidke ended with “Words” which included Kier Nuttell taking a very rhythmic solo which chromatically worked it's way back to the chorus. It was a great song to end it. (BTW - the video for "Words" is worth checking out -it's quirky and cute like one would expect.)

Wednesday night was the last show of Kate Miller-Heidke's tour. I'm glad I got to see her a second time. I'm looking forward to the next tour and maybe a new recording. I also hope that something big happens before the next time around. I would like to see her tour with a full band.

Kate Miller Heidke Set List
1.Our Song
2.Politics In Space
3.Caught In The Crowd
4.Dreams/I Love You
5.Can't Shake It
6.Space They Cannot Touch
7.God's Gift To Women
8.Psycho Killer - Talking Heads Cover
9.The Last Day On Earth
10.Are You F*cking Kidding Me? (Facebook Song)

Josh Mease Set List
1. Overboard
2. Days Like This
3. I See You
4. White Diamonds
5. Aeroplane
6. Soldier
7. You Found Me
8. Eleanore
9. Start Over


  1. Frank,
    Was Kate Miller's set recorded; And if so, where can I pickup a copy. Talking Heads and Psycho Killer is one of my favorites. Would love to hear this version.
    Bill D.

  2. You can hear it by going to YOUTUBE and search for "Kate Miller-Hiedke Psycho Killer." There are several videos listed of her doing the song.