Four years ago, at a small boutique festival in North Yorkshire called The Magic Loungeabout, a young woman walked on stage accompanied by her brother, armed only with a ukulele. Her name was Misty Miller and she had emerged on the scene as a sixteen year old elfin waif, releasing an eponymously titled album full of gorgeous, lilting compositions seemingly custom-made for a chilled out afternoon in the sunshine. Fast-forward to 1st March 2015 and we’re in a dark, windowless room above the main bar of Gulliver’s in Manchester’s Northern Quarter to experience Misty Miller once again, but this time things are very different indeed.
Gone is the ukulele, the long blonde locks and flowing, summery dresses of old. In their place is an oversized Magnum t-shirt, a jet black bob and a racing green Gibson SG guitar. The young girl on that stage four years ago has certainly grown up and gone electric and she now stands before us with her young band, urging the crowd forward, promising not to bite.
It would be rash to forget that Misty’s first album is still a very good record indeed. The songs are mainly composed on the ukulele and the overall tone is radiant, with a very positive disposition, but within certain songs, depths are mined and teenage anxieties begin to emerge. Songs like Home for example, which begin to expose an adolescent fragility are delivered with an emotional intensity that foreshadows things to come. Misty herself may not like the record and these songs are certainly not played live anymore, but the reinvention that has taken place in the last few years owes a lot to tracks like this. Tonight she opens the show with Marmalade which is a dark, fuzzy slice of garage rock that allows Misty to destroy any preconceptions that the crowd may have had about her. The song is raw, hinting at the suggestion that the last four years have provided some rather murky experiences and these are now emerging in her new material.
The first track certainly does it’s job of quickly establishing Misty Miller’s credentials to the uninitiated and the evening is a perfect opportunity to enhance this and air tracks from latest EP Sweet Nothing, released just this morning. The record is essentially Misty bearing her soul, playing live and apart from the first song, playing solo, so it is great to hear songs like Happy and Stars with the full band, who are clearly having fun tonight with the new material. Like a lot of Misty’s new songs, the searingly honest, autobiographical approach on the record is refreshing and presented in person, becomes quite hypnotic as she pours her heart out during highlight of the night Best Friend. More of that later though.
The rest of the set is made up of some real gems from her earlier releases. Wry smiles are generated by the rambunctious Taxi Cab, which provides an opportunity for Misty to really exhibit her vocal abilities to their fullest extent, which have matured immensely since her debut record. Full of attitude, but richer and more robust than before, one gets flashes of Joan Jett in Misty’s swagger. Girlfriend is equally satisfying. Spiky, bolshy, it erupts like a hand grenade in a 1950s diner. These songs are full of dark humour and hugely satisfying as a result, but Misty reminds us of the anxieties of youth when Devil is performed, providing incredible pathos to proceedings. The song is a cathartic release for Miller and performed live generates a truly mesmerizing moment and one you can’t draw your eyes from. Her committed rendition of this song truly stirs something in this young woman, for whom music means so much when it comes to expressing her emotions. This is most definitely the case with Best Friend. The song is as honest as the medium can get and Misty doesn’t try and hide it in this intimate venue, where we experience every heartbreaking note by an artist who one actually believes when she cries, almost literally that “I’m so scared of losing my best friend”. Passionate and authentic, Misty Miller is a musician who speaks for a generation. It’s difficult not to stand up and take note when it’s delivered with such skill, passion and sincerity.
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Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto