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Live review: Courtney Barnett @ Electric Ballroom, 10/04/2015


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There’s something reassuring in a singular artist like Courtney Barnett selling out a two night stint at the Electric Ballroom. It shows that enough people’s ears, minds and souls are functioning well enough to be beguiled by the weaving, lyrical wonders that form her exceptional debut.

Courtney BarnettWith that record hitting the 20 both sides of the Atlantic and her frank, self-deprecating odes to modern life painting pictures that few lyricists can manage, it is no surprise to find a packed out venue and a palpable sense of anticipation.

The finely tuned power-pop of Spring King only adds to the excitement, and they definitely slot into the ‘ones to watch’ category for any fans of bouncy, fun indie-rock tunes.

For many in the crowd, this is the first time witnessing Barnett in the live arena having been drawn here by the witty, observant lyrical content of her latest effort.

What unfolds is a rocked-up, rougher round the edges performance that the polished production of her album would not have suggested.

The ‘grunge’ comparisons are mainly drawn from the attitude of this music, a no frills, back to basics kind of rock that tonight straddles the twee and the full on rock-out.  The band look like a classic slacker rock group for good measure.

The energy is high right from brilliant opener ‘Elevator Operator’ till the last notes of a (not that brilliant) cover of The Breeder’s ‘Cannonball’ during the encore.

Barnett’s appeal could be said to come from her self-deprecating, self-awareness but live this translates into an effortless performance that contains classic-rock moments of pure noise to dryly witty in-between song banter with her band members and the crowd.

But for all the musical skill on display and the solid performance, this is about the words. It is these that elevate Barnett to ‘voice of a generation’ territory, even if that ‘territory’ is anyone who has even lived a mundane, everyday existence and found beauty in it.

On the slower numbers this power is apparent. It’s hard not to be moved by the belligerent and poetic statement “I used to hate myself, but now I think I’m alright” on ‘Small Poppies’ and the repeated refrain of ‘Depreston’ causes one of the most intellectually sound sing-alongs in a long time.

On my song of the year ‘Pedestrian At Best’ Barnett and band do not disappoint playing it with the noise and wild-abandon it deserves.

Courtney Barnett is a star in that she banks her success not on style or fitting in but solely on her unique way of documenting our world. Filtered through a solid rock live performance tonight shows that she is a talent worthy of much more fame and bigger venues.

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