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Words and photography by Elizabeth Sharpe | @ummagummamumma


I’ve never been to a show at HOTA’s outdoor amphitheatre before, so not knowing what to expect, I’m a bit blown away by the sheer beauty of this venue. A gorgeous stage sitting in the foreground against the twinkling cityscape of Surfers Paradise. The rather futuristic honeycomb-like structure is melded into its more natural surroundings with a bougainvillea, winding and weaving its way up either side of the stage.

Tonight, it will be transformed into a haven of heartfelt melodies and soulful tunes as Missy Higgins headlines a captivating, sold-out evening, with Lily Papas adding her enchanting voice to the mix as the supporting artist.

Gold Coast’s own Lily Papas graces the stage with her acoustic guitar, accompanied by Tommy Sheehan on electric guitar and backing vocals, beginning with Lights Out.  Having just the two of them on the beautifully lit stage evokes a sense of intimacy that drew the already packed-out HOTA audience into her world of lyrical depth and emotional resonance.

Her second song is Freak, from her 2021 album ‘Encore’. Having followed Lily for a few years now, this happens to be my favourite track of hers, and it is certainly special to see it performed live to a crowd who are surely becoming fans of this hometown talent. The deep and warm tones of Lily’s voice are so comforting and captivating, and Tommy’s vocals are perfectly complementary.

Jackson is another poignant addition to the setlist. This one resonates with me and particularly pulls at the heartstrings as Lily pleads over and over “Don’t take advantage of me”.  The original is suitably followed by a cover of its namesake, Jackson by Johnny Cash.  People in the audience are pulling their phones out to record this hauntingly beautiful rendition of a classic that Lily has definitely made her own.

We are next treated to Lily’s unreleased song, Nevada High, and her last song of the evening, Stronger“I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m going to prove that I’m stronger without you”.  And with that, Lily has taken the opportunity to showcase her incredible songwriting and set the tone for an evening filled with introspection and beauty.

As the anticipation grew, Missy Higgins took the stage to rapturous applause. In a gorgeous long, deep blue dress, she gave the cheering crowd two thumbs up as she approached the microphone. Missy echoed my own thoughts on the venue and its beauty and said that she had never played here before, encouraging another big welcoming cheer from the crowd.

Missy explains that for this tour, the first set of the night is altered for every night of the tour inspired by the call-out she’d made on her socials to fans, requesting a list of lesser played, more obscure songs from her catalogue.  After an intermission, ‘The Sound Of White’ Album will be played in full… the fans can’t contain their excitement at this statement.

Opening with Run So Fast, she immediately captivates the audience with her soul-stirring voice and heartfelt lyrics. But it’s the next song that really takes me back – Greed For Your Love – the slowly pulsing HOTA lights glowing in red and purple hues enhance the mood, and nostalgia washes over me as I’m sitting here listening to one of the first Missy Higgins songs I ever fell in love with.

Falling follows, and then Blue Velvet Dress – a track that is currently unreleased and unfinished – we are warned that tonight’s version may not be the final recorded evolution, making it an even more special night to witness. It will be included on her album being released in September, ‘The Second Act’. Missy explains that she made a conscious decision to be as open, honest, and vulnerable as she needed to be, and that the dress she is wearing for this portion of tonight’s show is the same blue velvet dress she was wearing during the break-up of her marriage on New Year’s Eve, 2021. The song itself is a deeply personal insight to the artist’s heart and is as soul-stirring as it gets – “Still wearing my favourite blue velvet dress, singing to strangers, my heart in shreds”. I can’t help but hope that the song stays exactly as she performed it for us tonight – goosebump-inducing.  September can’t come soon enough.

Back over to her piano and supported by Sarah, Zoe, Louise and Alana on backing vocals, for Broken Ones.  Everyone’s Waiting, The Cactus That Found The Beat, and A Complicated Truth follow, with The Second Act rounding out the first act of the night.

After a short intermission, Missy returns to the stage and says although all songs from ‘The Sound Of White’ will be played tonight, as it’s the 20th anniversary of the album, it will not be played from start to finish – where’s the surprise in that?! She’s right… this is a much-preferred format for me. Kicking things off with All For Believing, The River, Katie, and Lay It All Down, every single beat, melody, and lyric is coming back to me, and the rest of the audience too it seems, as the fans find their voices and join in.

Backed by a talented band that complements her sound faultlessly, Missy‘s performance is nothing short of magical.  Each song is delivered with raw emotion and authenticity, resonating deeply with everyone in attendance – and before each song we are treated to little anecdotes accompanying the song that follows, which really helps set the mood and intention.

Ten Days… and now this concert has become a starlit, singalong soirée and even I’m singing along – this continues for the remainder of the evening with This Is How It Goes and Casualty, where Missy takes a moment to acknowledge designer Anna Cordell, who created the white fringed jacket she is wearing for this set of the night – adorned with little inferences from ‘The Sound Of White’ album, and a big red “bleeding heart” on the back in reference to Missy Higgins herself.

Rounding off the evening with another adored classic, Scar, and closing the night with The Sound Of White, I am leaving with a sense that this was a truly special event to be in attendance for and I am filled with gratitude.

It was a celebration of musical storytelling, genuine passion and emotion, leaving the audience spellbound from start to finish.  The atmosphere at HOTA Gold Coast was electric, with fans singing along and swaying to the music under the starlit sky. Stage lighting and visual effects enhanced the mood of each song, creating a visually captivating experience that mirrored the emotional depth of the music. This evening was a testament to the enduring power of live music, and Missy’s music especially, to touch hearts and unite audiences in shared moments of beauty, emotion, and nostalgia.

Thanks to Frontier Touring

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