Swung RnB drums, groovy bass, sweet keys, tender vocals, a passionate crowd. The energy at Pip Millett’s debut Naarm/Melbourne show on Wednesday night could only be described as warm, as her opener Shanae stated a few songs into her set. The vibe was sensual, slow, groovy and passionate, a perfect mood for a smaller intimate venue such as 170 Russell, the old nightclub venue in the heart of the city.
Opening for the Manchester singer was Sydney singer Shanae. A short yet tight 20-minute set brought the crowd right where it needed to be, with slow-burns Illusions, Come On Over and key single Locking Eyes. Backed up with a smooth jazz electric piano, Shanae and her musical partner played sweet minimal, yet funky arrangements of their tracks which normally featured more hip-hop and electronic instrumentation, giving us the stripped back pseudo unplugged experience. Although she is small, Shanae is an artist to keep your ears and eyes on as she makes her way through the Aussie scene. My favourite track played was Some Type Of Way, simple for the pure passion in the vocal performance.
After a quick intermission, our headliner took the stage. Pip Millett opened the show with Think You Know Me, the intro to her 2022 album When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know, Millett took us into her world, more specifically the current place in her creative journey. Choosing to open a show with a project’s opening track implies a level of continuity between the studio and live experience, which was both confirmed and contradicted by the following set.
Immediately after this opening number, Pip spoke to the audience. Her charming Northern English accent carried words of humour and modesty, as she seemed humbled and surprised that anyone, let alone a sold-out venue worth of people would come see her sing, yet there we were. Telling us “I came so fucking far to see you bitches” she launched into a medley of album tracks and hits, highlighted by the beautiful Do Well and Downright.
Her band was world class. A classy drummer, positioned side stage, punctuated the smooth RnB with a mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. The bass player took lead duties, carrying many of the low-end heavy tracks, with the guitar and keys players adding subtle rhythmic and spatial elements to fill out the sound. It’s always great to see an amazing RnB band showing us just how deeply in the pocket a team of musicians with killer chemistry can be. When Pip Millet took the chance to introduce her band, she teased them all saying, “Congratulations for being in my band, you’ve hit the fucking jackpot”, a sweet injection of cheeky confidence to contrast the music that mainly covered darker and sadder material. Pip is so clearly a person with much love for the people she works with, which always endears the music further to you when it comes from such a warm place.
My favourite songs of the night were Heavenly Mother, for its catchy and fun chorus, and Only Love, the closer of the new album, for it’s stripped back and minimal vibe. Pip also managed to do some of the best self-harmonisation I’ve ever seen, making her sound fuller and more emotional in deeper moments.
By the final track, the crowd had truly fallen in love. Make Me Cry, Pip’s sing-along hit made for a beautifully melancholy end, with her introducing it as the first song she released, and a song the reminds her of a long-lost time that still brings deep feelings to her heart. Her performance, her artistry, and her passion truly were a joy to see and made for a beautiful evening.