Reviewed on Saturday January 18
Courtney Barnett graced a sold-out crowd at Goodgod Small Club on Saturday night, once again proving that her recent overseas attention is not simply hollow hype, and making everyone in the crowd wonder for just how long they’ll have the chance to see her at such a small venue.
Nic Cassey opened the show, and while he and his backing band are obviously talented musicians, and his songs’ mix of Modest Mouse/Cold War Kids-style indie and Steely Dan-brand yacht rock is somewhat fresh, the guy really needs to improve his vocals. Or hire a singer.
Sures followed, and absolutely killed. The heavy chillwave reverb heard in their studio stuff doesn’t carry over live. At least, it couldn’t be heard in the tiny venue. Instead, their music mutated into tight, ’70s power pop with undeniably great melodies, more akin to a punchy Big Star than Wavves. Hopefully they incorporate this live sound into future releases; everyone’s playing chillwave at the moment, but hardly anyone is playing immediate power pop songs that you fall in love with on first listen.
Then Barnett appeared, and her set didn’t let up for its entire 45-minute duration. When played live, the ragged blues that is her bread and butter makes every song seem like the perfect soundtrack to a Tarantino film thanks to its added danceability. While her brilliant lyrics understandably aren’t easily understood live, she makes up for it by delivering her songs with sheer brute force thanks to the skill of her backing band, The Courtney Barnetts, and it makes all her songs sound better.
The aforementioned brilliant lyrics were on full display, however, in ‘Depreston’, a new song Barnett previewed without the aid of her band, and the highlight of the set (if not the loose version of ‘History Eraser’.) Its matter-of-fact lyrics like “Now we’ve got that percolator / Never made a latte greater / I’m saving $23 a week,” are what make her such an intriguing and refreshing artist. I look forward to paying at least double the $12 ticket price on her next tour.