Review By Emily White
A dreary winter’s night in Melbourne is not the ideal scene for an international pop sensation to take the stage. However, something about the cold and misty pavement lit up by slow moving, golden headlights set the perfect mood for an exquisite night of melodic storytelling. Seeing Noah Cyrus live has been a long time coming for her allegiance of fans, many of whom have followed the star since her musical debut at only sixteen years old. Seven years on and Noah has finally made her Australian debut with the Hardest Part Tour, in light of her 2022 album release. Joined for the first time by her long-term collaborator and friend – Australian songwriter and producer PJ Harding – it was to be a night of firsts, and an absolute blessing to witness.
Being met with one of the warmest welcomes I had ever seen for a support act, it is clear PJ Harding has built himself a fan base, almost entirely made up of gen z women. Certainly not the expected crowd for a lowkey, country-esque, songwriter, yet it was delightful to know that tonight was not about the glitz and glam of a pop concert – the fans had undoubtably gathered for the shared love of music.
Supported by only a steel string guitar and stagnant, golden lighting, the focus was on the storytelling. Opening the set with the first track off his recent EP; A Dangerous Thing set the tone for his brief, yet striking discography. PJ’s voice is warm and familiar, the perfect delivery when lyricism is the focus of the set. PJ is not a seasoned live performer, spending more time in the studio, yet he has become so supremely popular with Noah’s fan base. For the entirety of his set the room stood still, his touches of husky falsetto silencing the sold-out nightclub. Within a thirty-minute set PJ had easily sold his solo EP, To Fall Asleep, after playing its entirety.
The warmth of his tear-jerking ballads paired with crystal clear execution induced goosebumps throughout the room. A highlight of the set was the album’s title track, To Fall Asleep. Described as a song about the simplicity and calm that comes with family, more specifically in his role as a father. The Way It Felt to Love You is another masterpiece, filled with impressively concise, yet abstract imagery through metaphors, the song manifests itself visually in the mind of the listener.
‘It never rains in LA till it pours, and now the water’s slowly rising at my door. That’s the way it felt to love you’.
Being lucky enough to hear an unreleased track, There Was a Song, expresses the joy that comes with being able to perfectly express emotion through music in a way which words cannot. Bringing the set to a close, PJ began to work the collective voice of the room in an angsty singalong, The Machine. Evoking a sense of confidence and self-assurance in those yelling ‘Fuck you, I’m gonna do it anyway’, the crowd was more than prepared for the night’s headliner to make her debut.
Thirty minutes felt like a lifetime waiting for Noah to take the stage – made all the more exciting as her name appeared, illuminated by golden flames. The venue becoming more tightly packed with every passing minute. I couldn’t help but notice the striking way golden light bounced from the metal high hats and towards the freestanding mic. A high level of class and glamour had been established long before Noah’s arrival.
Noah (Stand Still), the opening track from her new LP, fittingly opened the show. A gorgeous ethereal soundscape cemented by a three-piece live band. Noah’s casual entrance to the stage came across as anything but mundane. Her stunning lace embellished, sheer white dress can only be described as angelic. Contrastingly, Noah’s lyrics come from a much darker lens, singing ‘When I turned 20, I was overcome with the thought that I might not turn 21’. The remaining tracks follow similar themes of struggling mental health and relationships, all with an undertone not of defeat, but of growth and persistence. Mr. Percocet and Unfinished introduced the audience to the powerhouse live vocals that were to be expected for the rest of the night, as well as Noah’s flawless crowd work and authentic, caring demeaner.
Imagery of grassy meadows backed the magical indie pop sound throughout the set, gradually darkening from day to night, coinciding with the lyrical themes becoming progressively darker. Making a nod towards her long-time collaborator PJ Harding, the audience was taken back to Noah’s first album with Liar. The End of Everything is a once in a lifetime album – perfectly crafted, no song lesser than the other. Personally, I spent much of my final year of high school listening to this album from start to end, blasting through the car on my first solo drives; I can expect that much of the crowd did too. Hearing these tracks live for the first time felt like a metaphorical bookend to that phase of life, for both Noah and her fans who have grown by her side.
Powering through her short, yet sweet discography, All Three, I Just Want a Lover, and her first ever single, Again, all made the cut. ‘This song confronted the sad in myself. The fear that anyone I was close to would get up and leave at any moment’. The energy came to a halt as an acoustic section of the night began with My Side of The Bed; a highly relatable, yet deeply personal ballad about having trust and abandonment issues in relationships. The star was met with dead silence and undivided attention as she reintroduced PJ for their second ever time performing as a duo. The small set comprised of acoustic tracks You Belong to Somebody Else, Cannonball, Dear August, The Best of You, and The Worst of You.
I Got So High That I Saw Jesus bought with it a complete change of mood, as the poignant song about the end of the world transformed the venue into a gospel session. The fan favourite saw arms and bodies swaying in perfect synchronicity, the lyrics ringing through the sea of people. Blue smoke filled the room as the night began to come to its end. Hardest Part was without a doubt the standout performance of the night – with booming drums and bass creating a heart wrenching drama through the choruses, and slow solemn guitar lacing the verses. The highlight however was the vocals that seemed as though they had been savoured for this moment. Sounding like a choir of angels, shivers shot down the spines of the crowd. It is no wonder Noah has made a name for herself as a Grammy Award Nominated artist at age twenty-three, she is truly a musical treasure.
With her fans desperate for more, Noah returned to the stage as swiftly as she had departed. Begging for ‘one more song’, we were lucky enough to receive three of the best. Lonely, Make Me (Cry), and The End of Everything left not a dry eye in the room.
I had read that Noah’s live performances will stay with you long after her shows… and this is entirely true. Growing up in the limelight takes a toll on the strongest of people, and there is no hiding the pain and anguish that Noah has felt through her young adult life. However, after spending the night with the star, it is clear she has come through stronger than ever; carrying both herself, and her adoring fans who have found so much solace in her music.