There’s an effortless charm Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett gives off. Her lyrics are whimsical but cunning, and her vocals are a lot more powerful than they seem. She’s also an incredible guitarist to boot, taking on the lead (and pretty much only) guitar parts in her songs in addition to the vocals. While her performance and songwriting style is more speak-singing, she manages to find an appropriate time to incorporate some yells and screams, driving the crowd wild.
During her hour-and-a-half set, Courtney Barnett performed mostly songs off her latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. She addressed the crowd, “Hey,” before diving right into the set, starting softly with just her and her guitar for the slow opener, the first track on her latest album, “Hopefulesnness.” She sang, “I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna go…” and then the bass and drum entered softly. The pace picked up with “City Looks Pretty,” and the crowd nodded along to the catchy chorus. But the cheers really picked up when “Avant Gardener” started. The same went for her slightly older, more well-known tracks like “Elevator Operator” and crowd favorite, “Depreston.” “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” was one of the heaviest songs of the set, full of angst and had the crowd headbanging along. What was particularly stunning was the lighting during that song—a red spotlight on Barnett, elevating her anger that much more. She also debuted a new song, “Small Talk,” which read just like a story as she started, “Do you have any siblings? I’ve got a brother, Blake, he’s four years older than me…”
“I’m gonna play a slow romantic song,” Barnett said when they began to play “Depreston,” which was received by cheers from the crowd. The crowd sang along, “You could knock it down, and start rebuilding.” But some of the most stunning moments of the set were actually covers. For one, Barnett invited opener Waxahatchee to the stage where they took turns singing the verses of “Houses,” an Elyse Weinberg cover. Also, during their three-song encore, Barnett performed a soft and stunning song by Gillian Welch, “Everything Is Free,” that really spoke to the audience, no matter what they were going through. The set ended with a crowd pleaser, the rocking “Pedestrian At Best.”
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks performed just before, impressing the crowd with behind-the-head guitar solos and lengthy jams. The group performed several songs off their latest album, Sparkle Hard, including “Middle America” and “Solid Silk.” Kim Gordon guest performed on their collaboration, “Refute.” The former Pavement singer has been keeping busy, curating a range of rock songs from soft and subtle to quick and catchy.
Southerners Waxahatchee opened the night, playing in support of their latest release, Great Thunder.
Courtney Barnett Setlist:
- City Looks Pretty
- Avant Gardener
- Need a Little Time
- Nameless, Faceless
- I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch
- Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence
- Small Poppies
- An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)
- Small Talk
- Are You Looking After Yourself?
- Elevator Operator
- Houses (Elyse Weinberg cover) (with Waxahatchee)
- History Eraser
1. Everything Is Free (Gillian Welch cover)
2. Anonymous Club
3. Pedestrian at Best