Reviewed on Sunday March 16 (photo by Ashley Mar)
The last time Courtney Barnett was at the Opera House, she was hiding up the back of the stage behind the drum kit, flubbing her way through a classmate’s recital. Now, at the ripe old age of 26, she stands alone at the centre of the stage, performing – as she puts it – her own songs in her own voice.
It’s a distinctive voice, and one that is garnering more and more attention on a wider scale. Although her demographic is not quite in the room, which is occupied predominantly by suited boomers and babysitter-payers, they still applaud and titter at some of her more clever lines. Her charm lures people in, but it’s the pure talent in the songwriting that keeps people hooked. If tonight’s headliner is the Bard of Barking, perhaps Barnett can take the role of the Bard of Thornbury? It’s got a ring to it.
Roughly six months since his previous visit, Billy Bragg is back in Australia. He’s not alone, however – for the first time in years, Bragg has brought out his band to flesh out his storytelling, his balladry and his occasional state-of-the-union address. They complement him beautifully throughout the performance – three-part harmonies are added to ‘You Woke Up My Neighbourhood’ and ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’, while some beautiful slide guitar work is woven throughout by CJ Hillman, the band’s youngest member.
Bragg himself is in high spirits following the afternoon’s March in March, at which he performed. It influences the direction of both the song choices – ‘There Will Be A Reckoning’, ‘All You Fascists Bound To Lose’, et al. – as well as his infamous banter, which touches on everything from Thatcher to Rinehart and back again.
There is an air of excitement that buzzes both on and off the stage, a sense that the power can be taken back from a divisive, oppressive government. Maybe we won’t be waiting for the great leap forwards for much longer. Bragg provides hope for this.