By Georgia Plummer-Quinn
On Saturday evening Sydney-siders were graced with the presence of their newest national treasure, Courtney Barnett. Given the myriad of accolades Barnett has received in recent months, including four ARIAs and pending nominations for a Grammy and a Brit Award, expectations were running high.
All I can say is – believe the hype.
Solo artist Wil Wagner of (The Smith Street Band) warmed up early attendees, before Cloud Control took the stage. Their live performance was certainly heavier than recorded tunes, featuring a mind-numbing solo in ‘Promises’ and anthemic drums in ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’. Yet their quintessential dreamy vibe did not take a back seat, as the vocal harmonies of Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer kept their sound true.
It was not a long wait until we were all able to breathe the same air as the coolest woman in the world. Bassist Andrew ‘Bones’ Sloane, drummer Dave Mudie and Barnett (the trio is referred to as CB3) arrived on stage with disheveled long brown tresses, looking as though they’d all taken the exact same photo to the hair dresser.
Not wasting any time, they got straight into it, playing to a crowd that knew all the words, and singing along in community spirit without the aggression that can sometimes come with big rock gigs. Each tune was accompanied by an incredible set of visuals projected onto the huge wall behind the band – most memorably an engulfing pair of terrifying eyes looming over the crowd during ‘Dead Fox’ as Barnett belted “If you can’t see me I can’t see you”.
CB3 smashed out six songs before Barnett took a moment to say hey to everyone. While I must admit the lack of banter was a bit disappointing (as I’m trying to take notes on how to be as cool as her) – it can only be expected given her general persona is understated and humble. She told us that she loved us too, thanked us for seeing her play, and described to us her first Sydney gig a few years ago just up the street at Kelly’s On King – arguably one of the shittest pubs in Sydney.
They continued to play all their crowd favourites, including a lengthy lo-fi jam with heavy strobe lighting during ‘Canned Tomatoes’, and a surprisingly dark and bluesy ‘Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)’, which was the result of her recent collaboration with Jack White in Nashville.
What was perhaps most refreshing however, was seeing a powerful female artist whose songs aren’t all piney love ballads. The world has become so quickly enamoured with Barnett because of the universally relatable nature of her lyrics about feeling inadequate, self-conscious and unsure. In saying that, there is also a distinctly Australian quality to her music that speaks to a homegrown audience – such as depictions of 40-degree days in ‘Avant Gardener’, “a possum Jackson Pollock” painted on the tar of the Hume in ‘Dead Fox’, and the epitomisation of the Aussie suburban experience in ‘Depreston’. As such, as Barnett retreated backstage after her encore performance, we were left with hearts swelling with pride.
Miss the gig? Nevermind, we’ve got Barnett’s full set from The Forum, Melbourne.
Artists in this post
Courtney Melba Barnett (born 3 November 1987) is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist from Melbourne. Known for her witty, rambling lyrics and deadpan singing style, she attracted attention with the release of her debut EP, I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris. International interest from the UK and North American music press came with the
Cloud Control, an alternative rock band, originate from the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. As of 2013 the band is signed to the Australian label Ivy League Records, in which they released their debut album Bliss Release. The band has supported a host of local and international acts, including Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Supergrass, The
The Smith Street Band is a four-piece Australian folk-punk band from Melbourne who have released two EPs, South East Facing Wall and Don't Fuck with Our Dreams—released in 2010 and 2013, respectively—and two studio albums, No One Gets Lost Anymore and Sunshine and Technology—released in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In their own words: "We are