Gig Review by Chloe Gynne with Gig Photography by Jeremy Carron

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett has come a long way over the last 18 months. The sudden worldwide success of double EP ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ left her touring the same old setlist, despite having her debut album largely finished by the summer of last year. But now ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’ is finally here, and she is ready to unleash a newfound energy on her audience.

Fraser A. Gorman
Fraser A. Gorman

But first, the support.  Fraser A. Gorman and Spring King both represent two different elements of Barnett’s music: the former, melancholic, poetic, and the latter electric, frenetic. Gorman’s Dylan-esque harmonica wails are sometimes lost on the small gathering of earlybirds, but his sense of humour and solid lyrics earns him some new fans. Meanwhile, Spring King play like Surfer Blood on speed, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Their intense brand of punk-pop is exactly what’s needed before a Courtney Barnett show.

Spring King
Spring King

Barnett wanders onstage shyly, easing herself into ‘Elevator Operator’. She seems happy to be playing new tracks- not least to a crowd of fans who already know the lyrics- but she doesn’t fully gain her onstage confidence until she’s in more familiar territory. She heads into some older tracks, peaking with ‘Don’t Apply Compression Gently’. ‘It’s only got four chords, so we can’t fuck it up that bad’, she quips: and they don’t.

Courtney Barnett

With this tour, comes a much more talkative Barnett, and her crowd are also much more vocal this time around. Before ‘Dead Fox’, a heckler compliments her T-shirt, and in typical Courtney Barnett fashion, she tells the entire story of buying it. The crowd doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

But it’s time for the mood to turn. With slowie ‘Small Poppies’ comes Barnett, thrashing at her guitar with angst. The reflective lyrics in ‘Depreston’ make a few people glassy eyed, but the crowd sings the chorus in unity. Next up is ‘Debbie Downer’, perhaps an ironic nod to her previous choice of songs, and a set highlight thanks to its addictive melody.

Courtney Barnett

At this point, Barnett hasn’t played any of her three big ‘hits’, but the crowd don’t seem to mind at all. They shout their praise between tracks, but are quietly captivated when Barnett is doing her thing. At the end of the set, she blasts through all three songs in quick succession; first, ‘Avant Gardener’, which naturally gets the biggest response of the night, then ‘History Eraser’, which sees the band play-fighting by the end of the song, and closing with ‘Pedestrian At Best’, where her half-uttered vocals are somehow even more lackadaisical than on record.

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

Her encore is a grungy cover version of The Easybeats’ ‘I’ll Make You Happy’, which Barnett certainly does. She refuses to let the final chord ring out, and it’s clear she doesn’t want the show to end; she jumps down and plays amongst the front row, enjoying the response from her adoring fans. Barnett seems to be finally acknowledging what we’ve all been telling her for some time now: her music is something special. With her heightened confidence comes a set that celebrates the niche sound Barnett has carved for herself, and tonight in London, the crowd were happy to celebrate with her.

Courtney Barnett

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