Live Review ... Courtney Barnett
Most of the time, I go to gigs with a handful of friends, or at least turn up to a local venue where I recognise a few familiar faces. Waiting in the audience to see Courtney Barnett playing at the Forum is the first time I've gone to a gig completely alone. I'm half-expecting it to be an uncomfortable experience. For some reason though – her honest slice-of-life lyrics, maybe, or an idea of Australian friendliness, or just the fact that this is the second of two sold out nights at the Forum in a venue filled with fans – makes it feel like I'm with a bunch of pals anyway. The excitement is palpable, and the atmosphere is friendly. Tour support, fellow Melbourne based act Big Scary, are met with warmth and applause from the audience. Often support bands can feel a bit like filler, with their songs being background noise to pre-gig chatter, but everyone seems to enjoy the music, especially the saxophone riffs in several of the songs. Their sound is distinctive enough for the set to feel interesting and engaging, and even ordering drinks at the bar people are cheering and whooping in support.
Between acts, the excitement for Courtney Barnett builds. Playing her second of two sold out dates in the Forum, it's clear that the venue is filled with fans, and even the drunkest and lairiest of them still seem to be acting like boisterous puppies rather than leering drunk idiots. The vibe feels fun and friendly, perfectly suited to the music about to be played.
Opening with Avant Gardener, everyone around me is singing along the lyrics, and this continues throughout the night, with people sarcastically yelling out their favourite quips and various fans in the crowd screaming out their love for the trio on stage – Courtney Barnett herself, and backing members Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie, or the funky graphics and illustrations that are projected, kaleidoscopic, behind CB3. All of the artwork is designed by Courtney, and it's entrancing to see the images she doodles to go along with songs, and find the parallels between the drawings and the music. The simplest struggles of “I wanna go out but I want to stay home” are all the more satisfying when you're dancing along to Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party in a crowd of weeknight gig-goers.
As with her studio album, Courtney Barnett's live show easily moves between those witty observations and more emotional songs. Themes of housing crisises, old age, and environmental disasters don't seem like standard song-lyric fare, but the sensitive vignettes of common occurrences contrast against the rockier guitars and drumbeats of other songs, balancing the carefully worded song lyrics with the crowd's excitement for noisy songs. Depreston brings a tender softness over the crowd, and Kim's Caravan plays into Courtney Barnett's ability to bring her political attitudes into songs in a way that feels like a conversation with a friend, showing how political and environment issues involve themselves in our own day-to-day lives.
A few of us, including me, leave as the chant for the encore begins, to catch trains home before work the next day, but many more stay behind, clapping and calling for more songs. It's clear why tonight sold out; tickets are available for the last few dates here.