Courtney Barnett - Kentish Town Forum, London
Ambling on stage to the mid-paced 'Avant Gardener', Courtney Barnett introduces herself to the sold out London crowd. It’s a brave move opening your show with a song that’s not on the album that has drawn everyone to the Forum; 2015’s award-winning Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Regardless, it’s a great introduction to the intrepid musings we’ve come to expect from the 28 year-old Australian. Very few other acts could make heat induced anaphylactic shock morbidly amusing in her self-effacing manner .
Other than apologising for wearing the same slightly stinky t-shirt for two shows running, Barnett's onstage musings are limited. A quick "Thank you" here and there; you'd be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into her rehearsal room. The energy flowing between the singer and her bassist, Bones, is inimitable and sucks in the gaze of everyone in the room. Other than smallish pockets of movement in the mosh pit area, the crowd are annoyingly passive; it’s a contrast to the energetic spiky pop-punk of ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party’ emanating from the speaker stacks. Despite that air of indifference, tonight’s audience is a refreshing mishmash of gender and age, they just seem to be taking their time to wake up.
Compared to the Electric Ballroom when we last caught CB3 (Barnett's name for her trio), the Forum is relatively cavernous. The opening chords of 'Depreston' have the magical effect of seemingly shrinking the auditorium, the Aussie singer casting her spell over the audience. What might have been a mundane commentary in reality is a profound observation of twenty-something life. Her lyrics are where much of Barnett's appeal lies. She's a talented wordsmith, even if much of what she spits down the microphone tonight is tangled up and almost undecipherable amongst squealing solos and thundering bass lines. Never was there a location more apt for a downbeat anthem against spiraling inner city property prices. You can feel the crowd reflecting on many a good London venue torn down as they echo the mantra "If you've got a spare half a million, you could tear it down and start rebuilding".
The swirling psychedelic outro of 'Dead Poppies' serves as a reminder that Barnett has a plethora of genre stylistics up her sleeve. Some aren’t obvious on record, and it’s in a live setting that she comes into her own, her musical prowess lighting up the stage. A storming hurricane of a set and another clutch of converts notched up, the trio wander off stage as casually as they first appeared.