Review By: Mike Gerry
Photos By: John McNicholas
Courtney Barnett came back to Atlanta behind her official debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, one of the year’s best albums so far. The buzz for this Australian singer songwriter has been growing since her hit “Avant Gardener” made it stateside from her 2013 The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The American press has been all over her since the release of the new album earlier this year.
This show was first scheduled for the smaller venue in the Center Stage complex, Vinyl. That quickly sold out and was moved to The Loft, which again sold out. Not bad in Atlanta considering right down the street the rest of Atlanta was at The Rolling Stones. We saw more than one Stones shirts in the crowd, with an ode to the past, but seeing who’s next.
This all ages show had a mixed crowd of both young and old and everything in between. Barnett’s music is something people of all different ages can get behind: the young honest songwriter, experiencing life’s problems the same way all young people are growing up. A rock guitar goddess that any young girl can look up too. But also the lyrical talent, guitar chops, shredding ability, and music steeped in the past that any old soul can understand this talent. Courtney Barnett is a star in the making, and it’s easy to see live.
Courtney Barnett came out on stage and immediately went into the first track off the new album “Elevator Operator” a really fun and upbeat opener that got the crowd going. This song is a great introduction into her lyrical style, describing the small details of a scene and the feelings that go behind it when a kid goes to a rooftop, enjoying the quite windy scenes but getting yelled at not to jump, that he has a whole great life ahead of him. It’s not just the lyrics itself and the way she describes the scenery, it’s her delivery that makes her unique.
By the third song, “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” she started kicking it into high gear, shredding, head banging, you could see the force we were dealing with onstage.
By the fifth song, “Small Poppies”, Barnett slowed it down and took us on a bluesy journey. But even her slower jams work their way into a fever by the end of the song, and this song saw the heads banging.
The seventh song brought one of the hits from her new album, the beautiful song “Depreston”. This song has showed her guitar skills with a wonderful riff, no shredding here, just a beautiful vibe. This song got the whole crowd singing along:
“If you’ve got a
Spare half a million
You could knock it down
And start rebuilding”
The crowd was into this show, and in love with everything happening on stage. The yells of approval were coming strong to which Courtney replied “Thanks, I tried really hard.” You could tear into a lot of Courtney’s lyrics and think she is maybe a little depressed, perhaps a little bored. But she comes off as this sweet and genuine woman, that appreciates where she is, and loves every moment of being on stage.
The hit that started it all, “Avant Gardener” came for their 10th song of the set, a song that shows her lyrical brilliance off in full fashion. The crowd loved it and tried to sing along, but the sing along was more like trying to rap a song where you know a solid 4 words per every few lines, but you sing those words out to the top of your lungs like you know the full thing. This is what was happening and the whole crowd was together in it, enjoying every moment.
Directly after that song, Barnett and band went into her stated favorite song of her new album, and certainly one of our top songs of the year: “Kim’s Caravan.” The crowd hung on every word starting this song out slow, building it hits full throttle half way into the song. The guitar chops are shown off heavy here, and Courtney and her other two bands members proceed to jam out. The crowd knew greatness was on stage. It’s clear with this song, as stated “our most serious song” that Courtney is one of the hottest singer songwriters around right now.
Courtney Barnett continued the storm from then on, with a Breeders cover, “Cannonball” before closing out the first part of the set with her hit single “Pedestrian At Best” where shades of young Sonic Youth are shown off. After a brief interlude, the band came back on to play a cover of one of their favorite Australian bands, You Am I, playing their song “Heavy Heart”. They closed down one great rock ‘n’ roll show with “Pickles From The Jar” and capped it off with “History Eraser”. It’s hard not to love Courtney Barnett and her band.
Before Barnett and band took the stage, Eastern Washington’s Chastity Belt a group of 4 girl rockers were the perfect complement to Barnett. Chastity Belt is touring behind their second album, Time to Go Home, which is an interesting mix of Real Estate style sunny swirling guitar riffs behind heavy vocals. These chicks can rock no doubt, and when they ended their set with their new hit “Joke” the crowd was all into this band.
Australian singer songwriter Darren Hanlon started off the night early with strong, quirky songwriting. An acoustic guitar and just his voice, Darren has been immersed and well known in the Australian indie scene since the 90s. It’s always great for someone like Barnett to bring along one of her own, a talent that should be recognized stateside.
More photos from the show: