Review: Courtney Barnett at Metropolis Fremantle, 18 August 2018
Courtney Barnett has been riding a rocket for the past few years. Two solo albums, some EPs, and a collaboration or two have propelled the Melbourne songwriter to global stardom – or anyway, a lot more gigs in the likes of London, Brooklyn, and Kansas City than most rudimentarily groomed ‘lectric guitar players can score. Saturday night saw her bring her nuanced songwriting and barnstorming rock ‘n’ roll back to Perth for a first-rate show at Metropolis Fremantle.
East Brunswick All Girls Choir got things started with a rollercoaster of high-octane music, swerving from ballads to chaos and back with poise, dynamism, and evolving arrangements. Occasionally they veered into a thumpfest which seemed to leave Barnett’s more literary-minded fans a bit confused but still appreciative. There may have been some pre-loading going on before the show, as Music Insight was quizzed by one highly enthusiastic punter as to whether vocalist Marcus Hobbs was Barnett or not. He’s got a lot of hair, and a guitar, but that’s about where the resemblance ends.
The real Barnett and her band opened up with ‘Hopefulessness,’ a track off Tell Me How You Really Feel that had the crowd swaying, then bouncing in place. Next up was another new number, ‘City Looks Pretty,’ and the word count is rising. Spare a thought here for the sound man – the band was cooking by this point, and Barnett can play an out of control rock guitar with the best of them, but we could still catch all the nuances of her wordplay.
Four songs in (‘Charity’) and the dancing started. Barnett drove it with her own energy, guitar slung low in true rock style, moving dynamically, all angles and languid twisting, mugging to the music in ever-changing lights.
Speaking of light shows, ‘Need A Little Time’ went down under a cascade of sombre red, blue, and shadow that turned the band into a tableau that could have been a Weimar Berlin print. Gorgeous. Soon enough Barnett was delivering the hits from her first album, and bopping erupted occasionally into gentle moshing. ‘Depreston’s’ ode to real estate disenfranchisement sparked the inevitable wistful sing-along. Who doesn’t wish they had a spare half-million?
The band was great, though they didn’t move with quite the arena swagger of their frontwoman, and the rock ‘n’ roll was terrific all night. A three-song encore was the crowd’s reward for a few minutes of stomps and whistles, though Barnett started with a slow tune, and lost the back of the crowd to conversation. This only got drowned out as she ramped up the volume to close with ‘Pedestrian at Best.’ A great song but fortunately not one that summed up her show, which was far more than that. Lucky us.