Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Courtney Barnett's concert is not filled with lots of bells and whistles and sizzle, at least not in the production itself, to make an impact. Yes, the lighting folks acquitted themselves just fine, but at the end of the night, it's all about the music. And it was here that the Aussie native had the incredible knack for pushing the right buttons time and again.
If the sum of Barnett's musical explorations were the first two songs, "Rae Street" and "Avant Gardner," then Sheryl Crow would have been an obvious influence. Bright, cheerful, vibey. Barnett was far from being a Crow wannabe, not that Crow's someone to shy away from.
Barnett would soon occasionally rock out or later slow it down. She benefitted from excellent song choice with song after song standing on its own. But no matter the song, one thing that was loud and clear were Barnett's direct delivery of the vocals. She could be almost plain spoken at times, but she was never dull.
And you have to have a sense of humor with song titles like "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" (the words are never mentioned in the lyrics) or "Write a List of Things to Look Forward To," a song about gratitude (this title also isn't mentioned in the lyrics).
Barnett was not a big yapper up there, but she commanded the stage nonetheless as her musical warmth came through loud and clear. Her guitar runs on her Fender Telecaster – Barnett is a southpaw by the way - were taut and lyrical and direct. Though animated in her playing Barnett would not have been accused of filling her playing with excessive guitar noodling. If anything, Barnett was a bit too economical as a few of the songs could have been longer and were seemingly cut short.
The stellar playing was not only Barnett's bailiwick.
Barnett smartly employed the appropriate musical measures time and again. Drummer Dave Mudie used mallets for the one and only time on the next-to-last song, "Sunday Roast," infusing it for a tribal beat. Bassist Bones Sloane took a few stanzas late in the set, while also sometimes contributing backing vocals at varying points. And Barnett began her three-song encore with "Oh the Night," one of the softest songs all night, playing it solo.
Given that there were only the three of them onstage, Barnett, Mudie and Sloane were creative in delivering the songs with the rhythm section more than ably backing up Barnett.
Barnett and mates created their own sizzle.