By Johnny Papan
The Vogue Theatre
Tuesday, October 10 2018
The stage was drowned in a sea of red as Courtney Barnett and her backing band nonchalantly walked on stage and put their instruments on. They opened with the deadpan track “Hopelessness,” the opening song on Barnett’s new record Tell Me How You Really Feel, creating an ambiance that was as sedative as it was seductive. She followed with the far more upbeat “City Looks Pretty,” the second track from the new album before performing an old fan-favourite, “Avant Gardener.”
Lighting was a pleasant surprise, at times mixtures of greens and blues instilled feelings of 70s hippie freedom while, at other points, deep shades of reds and blues submerged you in a psychedelic haze. The new record’s lead single “Nameless, Faceless,” a song about toxic misogyny, and male violence towards women, intricately attacks you musically, as well as visually with it’s shocking light-flashes. Barnett appropriately followed this song with the seemingly In Utero inspired “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.”
There’s something Cobain-esque about the way Courtney Barnett performs. I’m not sure if it’s the unforgiving vocal wails that layer over her melodramatic pop songs, or the thrashy, distorted, grunge-laden guitar solos, or perhaps the way she flails her body, exhuming her lifetime’s worth of teenage angst. Playing a left-handed Fender Jazzmaster ties it all together.
The show showed a lot more aggression than anticipated. It blended artfully crafted lighting, and strongly written songs to create an experience beyond expectation. I must mention Barnett’s beautifully delivered solo performance of Gillian Welch’s “Everything is Free.” The show ended with Barnett’s arguably first big hit “Pedestrian At Best.”Courtney Barnett, The Vogue Theatre