[LIVE REVIEW] Courtney Barnett – Festival Hall, Melbourne 1/09/2018

I had heard a lot of praise for Courtney Barnett’s live shows, about her energy on stage which was difficult to imagine considering her songs are laidback and introspective.

I’d only heard her tunes as the wife hogged Spotify, after being converted at the Golden Plains festival. I liked the quirky Melbourne references, but I wasn’t convinced so it was time to see if she lived up to the hype. And it was date night.

“See her live!” my wife said. “She’s really rocks!”

But it was hard to imagine songs that are rambling, sometimes sarcastic, monologues about everyday mundane life could rock.

How could a song about house hunting in Coburg or saving $23 a week on coffee by buying a new percolator get thousands up singing?

Could a song about anxiety – Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack Of Self Confidence – get the venue jumping?

It does. And it’s fun because we can relate to it.

Opening with the somber Hopefulessness we’re taken on a ride.

From pop (Debbie Downer) blues (Help Yourself) to country (Small Poppies), there’s a lot to like and hard to pigeonhole, but just when the show begins to wane she ramps it up with some guitar-shredding rock.

Barnett’s deadpan demeanor and dry wit is easy to engage with. When not chatting to the audience – “does anyone have any questions?” (she had a ramen on Elizabeth St for breakfast) – she’s ripping out a killer guitar solo.

And she’s backed by a talented band, who were clearly having a great time together as they wound up a national tour on their home soil.

Fans ranging from kids to grandparents filled Festival Hall – another crusty Melbourne icon that is worthy of a Barnett song – and that’s a testament to her appeal.

The night covered much of her latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel, but as always the songs that put an artist on the map get the biggest reaction.

The biggest sing-along was for  Depreston, while Avant Gardener and Elevator Operator were other crowd favourites.

Barnett’s a storyteller and why much of the gig is spent listening to the lyrics, which can’t be said for most bands. Neil Young springs to mind.

She closed the night with the kick-arse Pedestrian At Best, which was perfectly summed up by my wife.

“You just can’t capture her personality and energy on an album.”

And that’s the secret to her growing success. I’m hooked too, now.

Review Contributed by Daron Jacks