Courtney Barnett at Somerset House
“I feel like the Queen should be looking down from up there or something!” – so Courtney Barnett acknowledges the strange juxtaposition between the celebratory music festival vibe and the imposing neoclassical architecture surrounding her in the courtyard of Somerset House, venue for her first London gig in nine months. Such pronouncements to her audience are rare. The Melbourne-based indie troubadour gives a head-down, no-nonsense, high-energy performance, her vocals and guitar ably supported by Bones Sloane on bass and Dave Mudie on drums.
Maybe it’s due to the unusual environment, but the sell-out crowd take a little warming up. Nonetheless, by the time Barnett presents them with the singalong refrain of Depreston (dedicated to the Lancashire namesake of the Aussie town that gives it its title) the majority find their voice. Before long they also find their dancing shoes, as the pounding bass line of Pedestrian at Best (also drawn from her break-out international hit debut LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit) is the cue for the first of many breakouts of joyous moshing.
While arguably lacking sophistication, Barnett’s finger-strumming electric guitar style, honed to perfection through her meteoric journey from busking on the streets of her homeland to filling concert halls the world over, fits the songs she writes like a glove. Whether with spiky punk chord progressions (Elevator Operator), grungy rhythmic drones (Kim’s Caravan) or dizzying effects-laden solos (Lance Jr), Barnett’s talent with her instrument is as much a cornerstone of her music as her smart line in wittily observational, heartfelt lyrics and her deadpan conversation.
Wielding the tool of her trade like a weapon, Barnett sends her six-string crashing to the floor in squealing fug of feedback as she leaves the stage and anthem-for-asthmatics Avant Gardener (refrain: “I’m not that good at breathing in”) ostensibly brings proceedings to an end. Our hero returns solo initially for what she tells us is a first live outing in two years for the achingly sweet Ode to Odetta, before her band rejoin her to bring the curtain down with her biggest-selling single to date, Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Wanna Go to the Party.
With trademark pattering verses and an earworm of a chorus, the final song hammers home the infectious vitality that has made Barnett a breath of fresh air for indie fans, closing the show in triumphant fashion.
Photos: Guifré de Paray
For further information about Courtney Barnett and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Pedestrian At Best here: