Giving voice to inner turmoil and form to wry observation, Courtney Barnett speaks directly to everyone who cares to listen. But taking to the main stage at Henham Park, the Australian musician barely says a word. Not that she needs to - the music does all the talking for her, and the audience are clamouring to hear.
Live, her songs are different beasts almost entirely. Famed for her witty lyricisms, it might seem odd that her words should take a back seat, but as the distortion of ‘Scotty Says’ leads into the contagious refrains of ‘Debby Downer’, the only thing that seems to matter is the music and how it makes you move.
This isn’t to say that they lyrics don’t still hammer home. ‘Depreston’ is transformed into something of an anthem, lyrics ringing out all across the festival field. ‘Pedestrian At Best’ sees Courtney’s internal monologue tear free into an rallying cry voiced by everyone present.
As Courtney and her band cut loose on stage, the audience lose themselves in the music, pulling all manner of eccentric shapes as the rhythms take hold. The driving distortion of ‘Small Poppies’ incites a particularly zealous crowd member to rock out so hard his headband flies through the air. During ‘Elevator Operator’ a group of gentlemen in suited and booted attire shake off all sense of composure. ‘Kim’s Caravan’ sees Courtney sinking to her knees as the riffs she’s playing overpower everything else.
Rawer, wilder, and verging on the edge of chaos, the performance tears free of expectation and lets everyone’s innate instincts take hold. Throwing their arms around each other as they leave the stage, there isn’t an experience that provides or stimulates more thrill.
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