Review: Courtney Barnett @ O2 Academy

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Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett by Elizabeth Weinberg

In my eyes, a good concert needs to tick 4 boxes. Great music; a good atmosphere; stage presence and a personality to the performer. Courtney Barnett and her three-man-band tick all these boxes and more.

With support from her band mates – bassist Andrew Sloane, drummer Dave Mudie and keyboardist Katie Harkin, Courtney took to the stage. Opening with the hit track ‘Hopelessness’ from her second album Tell Me How You Really FeelBarnett quickly got the crowd dancing, raising the energy after the beautiful yet calming opening set by support act Laura Jean.

The ferocious energy of ‘Hopelessness’ transitioned perfectly into ‘City Looks Pretty’. Although Barnett doesn’t seem to be the type to talk to the crowd, when she does in this case, you could hear the pride in her voice when she thanks us for being there with her.

The next song she played was a beautiful rendition of ‘Avant Gardner’. The excitement in the crowd would make it clear to anyone that this is her best known song, I was surrounded by people singing their hearts out, the lyrics addressing Barnett’s struggles with anxiety. ‘Avant Gardner’ was followed by ‘Need A Little Time’ and her critically acclaimed ‘Nameless, Faceless’.

‘I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch’ was the next song Barnett graced us with. An angry song about being her own person. The emotion was clear in the speed and the way she moved around the stage, angrily playing her fender while trashing her head back and forth.

Barnett slowed the crowd down, transitioning us from excitingly jumping about the place to a gentle sway when she plays ‘Small Poppies’. Another song where Barnett opened up to the crowd about her struggles with mental health. Barnett went on to play ‘Depreston’ and ‘Are You Looking After Yourself’.

After the mellowness of ‘Are You Looking After Yourself’ Barnett welcomed Laura Jean back on to the stage to perform ‘Streets Of Your Town’, a cover of the hit song by The Go-Betweens. Laura then left the stage as Barnett began to play ‘Elevator Operator’ for us, followed by ‘Charity’ and the spoken word song ‘History Eraser’.

To the discontent of the crowd, Barnett announced her final song ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party’, an upbeat track that got the crowd jumping again, a smart way to ensure the crowd was excited for the inevitable encore.

Barnett left the stage for about 5 minutes, not coming back until the crowd was practically begging for her to return. Barnett walked back onto the stage, guitar in hand, alone. She stood in the centre of the stage, under a pale blue spotlight.

Alone is where Barnett is most vulnerable, but it also seemed this is where she felt most at home. With a strum of the guitar Barnett performed a heartfelt cover of the Gillian Welch track ‘Everything Is Free’ as the crowd stopped swaying left to right, we welcomed the rest of the band back to the stage for the next song ‘Anonymous Club’.

Barnett dedicated the final track of the night ‘Pedestrian At Best’ to anyone out there going through a difficult time. This was another spoken word song where she sings about her struggles with anxiety. Once again opening up to the crowd about her personal life and showing us that you can overcome the struggles.

Although she didn’t talk much, her personality shines through. Letting her music speak for her tells us about Courtney’s struggles with her mental health, personal life and fame. I had never listened to Courtney’s music until tonight but I know for a fact I’ll be listening to her for a long time to come. She put on an amazing show and I’ll definitely be seeing her again.

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