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Gig Review: Courtney Barnett @ The Powerstation, Auckland - 28/08/2018

29 Aug 2018 // A review by Paul Goddard
I love watching support bands. For some people, they are an excuse to stay in whatever bar, house or car they are preloading in for a little bit longer, but I love the unexpected. I like to be surprised and these guys have a name that conjures up some very specific preconceptions. For the uninitiated (like me) East Brunswick All Girls' Choir are not all girls and they definitely are not a choir. Well, not in the godly sense anyway. Apparently last time they played NZ the bar crapped itself as it thought there would be a huge rider for all the Choir members.

I overheard a pre-gig conversation tonight in Galbraith's where most of the pre-loaders are hanging out tonight, that went something along the lines of “What the fuck is a choir doing supporting Courtney Barnett?” Luckily the response was “don’t worry if she picked them to support it will be good”. Oh, how the masses are confused by txt and words.

Then the EBAGC (sorry it's a long name) settle into the journey. They play country like Jack White plays blues and the vibe gets a little more chilled. We meander for a while then someone hits the dial on the radio and we are back into a drum-led trippy blast of psychedelia that gets the crowd engaged. The tempo stays upbeat until we reach the end. 45 mins from A to B with some highlights and some sleepy moments, where watching the crowd was more interesting than watching the stage.

The perfect openers for Courtney Barnett, but with a little more gas, the EBAGC could go so much further.

It has taken years of hard work for Courtney Barnett to be here tonight. Last time I saw her was at the now-defunct St James Theatre in Auckland. Tonight is the overspill show, as the original gig (Tuesday) sold out, is a testament to her growing popularity, which is well deserved.

Her journey from the guitarist in Melbourne grunge band Rapid Transit back in 2010 to a globe-trotting, critically acclaimed songstress has been achieved via the “old school” route of “bloody hard work”.  Her vocal style is not forced and is as honest and direct as many of her observational lyrics. Not unlike Alex Turner, Courtney can turn the everyday mundanity of life into a chart-topping sing-along.

Tonight, Courtney and her band enter the stage to a huge cheer and without any showy glitz or glamour, they ease into need a little time. It builds along with the crowd. So simple but beautiful.

The rock/grunge influence is woven throughout Courtney's music. She is more Kurt Cobain than Courtney Love and this adds an energy to the poetry of her music as she shakes and twists through the opening songs like an alt-country Joan Jett. There is a laid-back aggression that really shines on small poppies where she really unleashes, and the band are clearly tight from constant gigging. From here on in they have the crowd hooked and what follows is a sublime lesson in songwriting meets performance without any distractions.

It’s heavy and mellow, chilled and angry. Some might say this is dumb rock with smart lyrics but there is more to it. It’s an honesty without the pretentiousness that permeates her performance and ultimately connects.

A laid-back Depreston sees the first sing-along of the night and once again keeps building on what has gone before. It's a perfectly paced set pulling on all the influences including a cover of Neil Young/Elyse Weinberg's Houses which fits perfectly even though it was written 50 years ago.

The encore sees Courtney on her own and showcases her pick less guitar playing style before the rest of the band join her to close off the night with a blistering Pedestrian At Best.

I have to admit I haven’t got around to buying the latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel, but after tonight’s performance, I will and so should you. The effortless mix of humour, intelligence, style and a general “I don’t give a fuck” attitude is infectious tonight and can’t help but make you smile.

Courtney is one of those rare performers who can just let the music do the talking. She connected with the 1500+ people soaking up the vibes and would equally connect with 200 people in a bar or 20,000 people at the many festivals she has played recently. No need for a revolving stage set, costume changes, dancers, pyrotechnics this is all about the music and Courtney knows exactly how to get that across. Let’s hope she just keeps on keeping on.



Review written by Paul Goddard
 

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