Live Review: Courtney Barnett – The Roundhouse

Editor's Review
  • Live Review: Courtney Barnett - The Roundhouse - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Summary

Courtney Barnett's star is on the rise and a captivating performance at The Roundhouse showcasing her new album followed by older hits proves why.

8.5/10
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Having been on tour recently taking in a number of venues and festivals, the star of Australian musician Courtney Barnett has been very much on the rise. In front of a bustling crowd at the Roundhouse, she demonstrated why this is the case with an incredible set. The first thing that struck me as she took to the stage was the strength of her voice which was in fine form. This coupled with some really grungy guitar lines, beefed up with a slick backing band were demonstrative of an artist who is currently on top of their game.

The opener was ‘Hopefulness’, the first track of her recently released second album ‘Tell Me How you really feel.’ Afterwards, she preceded to play the new album in its entirety, which is a bold move but one that paid off. The pithy lyricism and sharp insight into quotidian events that marked her first album is retained. However, it feels as if there is a more introverted approach to the newer songs.  Perhaps it is simply because they have so recently been released that the crowd weren’t hugely lively in the first part of the set.

This is also in part due to Barnett’s audience interaction which is almost taciturn throughout, most songs followed by a simple thanks, or on occasion introduced by name. However, this works because it feels unaffected and the performance speaks for itself without requiring much in between song chat. There isn’t a need to fill the space and this approach is bolstered by the sparing but effective use of the stage lighting. For the most part, the stage is bathed in a heavy red light occasionally interspersed with bursts of colour that correspond effectively with the more upbeat sections of songs.

Throughout there is a fullness to the sound, with the guitar more prominent and the overall energy more urgent, as opposed to the often laid-back observational nature of the recorded tracks. The set made ample time for some heavy blues-inflected guitar. The grunge-tinged feedback technique saw Barnett throwing herself around the stage. This was especially noticeable on tracks such as I’m not your Mother, I’m not your bitch where the growling guitar was given full expression. This more defiant sentiment was also present in Nameless Faceless,  with the anger of the chorus line palpable. “I wanna walk through the park in the dark Men are scared that women will laugh at them… Women are scared that men will kill them.” ‘Need A little Time’ also went down particularly well and saw the crowd warming up a bit. 

Upon finishing going through the track listing of ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ the earlier numbers were brought out.  while the first part of the set went down well, it was this latter section that most invigorated the audience. The sharpness of songs like ‘Avant Gardener’, ‘Depreston’ and ‘Elevator Operator’, which are full of wry observations delivered almost as throwaway lines hit the mark and Barnett became a touch more garrulous as well. 

By the final song, a spirited rendition of ‘Pedestrian at Best’ the whole crowd are enthralled, with many dancing and just about everybody singing along. It is an excellent way to cap off a performance that shows how Courtney Barnett’s sound is developing. The breezier more poppy earlier tracks sit well against the newer and somewhat darker material to create a whole that demonstrates an expanding palette. This was the confident set of a musician who you sense has a lot more to come,  one who knows how to play a great gig while remaining true to what they want to do. If you get the chance to see Courtney Barnett live you definitely should.

Set List:

Hopelessness

City Looks Pretty

Charity

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

Help Your Self

Walkin’ on Eggshells

Sunday Roast

Avant Gardener

Don’t Apply Compression Gently

An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)

Small Poppies

Elevator Operator

Depreston

History Eraser

Anonymous Club

Pedestrian at Best

 

 

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