Live Review: Courtney Barnett – Leeds

Courtney Barnett

courtney barnettThe Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 29th March 2015

Words: Julia Grantham

Walking through doors of The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds last night was a bit like opening the
door to an elderly relative’s house; everything was instantly familiar in a warm, cosy sort of way and I felt at home. I have attended numerous gigs at this unassuming venue, some outstanding, some not so outstanding, but the best ones are firmly etched in my memory and therefore, perhaps needless to say, Courtney Barnett had a lot to live up to.

As I stood in front of the stage among the crowd awaiting her entrance, I was immediately struck by the tent-like appearance of the set. I had never seen the stage dressed in this way, and it seemed almost incongruous to the setting initially, on the one hand it looked like the inside of a cheap 80s wedding marquee and yet on the other, a parachute inviting the audience to float away. I was intrigued.

I don’t usually concern myself too much with an artist’s appearance, it’s all about the music and atmosphere for me, but as Barnett entered the stage, head down and avoiding eye contact with her spectators, she had a certain aura about her. She was effortlessly cool, serene, and dressed in an over-sized striped t-shirt, devoid of make-up and had lank, greasy hair. I found it refreshing howordinary she looked, and yet her understated style made her all the more appealing for that. It was a couple of songs into her set before she spoke a few words to her audience, and when she did, her commentary was laconic, dry and yet humorous at the same.

I couldn’t help but feel that the audience was strangely disengaged to start with, Courtney herself proclaimed how still people were, before promptly erupting with Avant Gardner. From that moment on, the dancing ensued and some much needed life and soul was injected into the crowd.

Sometimes artists don’t live up to your expectations when you see them live, or their performance doesn’t match the quality of their recordings, but Courtney Barnett was simply brilliant live. The sound that came from the three-piece was incredible, and although it took time for her crowd to warm-up, they were left wanting more. Highlights were History Eraser, a cautionary tale of hedonism, performed with a ceiling-lifting energy, juxtaposed beautifully with the soulful and poignant An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) and Small Poppies; the latter showcasing the breadth of Barnett’s style and proving that she can pull off slower bluesy numbers just as much as she can fill the room with the more powerful sounds of grungy songs such as Pedestrian At Best, which was the perfect song to end with, before coming back onstage to an encore of Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party.

If you haven’t seen Courtney Barnett live, make sure you do. I challenge anyone not to be seduced by her performance and the intensity and harmonies of her songs. Ideally, pick a small dingy venue, and be prepared to dance and sing your heart out. She won’t let you get away with not letting your hair down, and I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t.

 

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