Since the March release of her first full-length album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has become pretty popular. Popular enough that on Wednesday she both headlined and sold out a show at Manhattan’s Terminal 5, which has a capacity of roughly 3,000 people. The Australian rocker was supported by Torres and Speedy Ortiz, who recently released their own albums, Sprinter and Foil Deer.
Barnett opened her set with a drawn-out, solo version of “Anonymous Club.” Her endearing voice filled every inch of the venue until even the drunk dudes using the quiet to shout catcalls with fake Australian accents were silenced. When she wasn’t at the mic she reeled around the stage, whipping her hair and strumming furiously. On recordings, her drawl is relaxed, shifting from weary to playful, but on stage, the lyrics come spilling out. At key crescendos she’d replace syllables and whole words a shout or roar, the only thing that could match the intensity on songs like her encore of “History Eraser.”
The best part of the show (besides the music, obviously) was seeing the huge, three-tier venue completely packed for a show fronted by female guitarists. Not guitarists in the sense that they’re strumming a few chords while they sing- they’re rocking strats and telecasters, pushing their instruments and voices to the limit. Sadie Dupuis (of Speedy Ortiz) forgoes any delicate melodies in favor of harsh guitar lines that leave a jagged edge as they cut through swaggering songs. Mackenzie Scott, aka Torres, accompanies herself on guitar with a steady, loping beat- her tone is serious, focused, and slightly dangerous. One of the show’s best moments was during her song “Strange Hellos.” It’s cathartic enough as a recording, but she suddenly let out a chilling shriek in between choruses: “I was all for being real/ But if I don’t believe then no one will.”
When I saw Courtney Barnett a year ago, her set had energy and charisma, but seemed rushed. This time around, she brought a new intensity and confidence to her performance. Before, I remember her ending her set by disappearing from the stage. On Wednesday, however, she dropped her guitar and walked off as the feedback shrieked and wailed at the audience. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t headlining then or her fame was relatively new, but now, she seems to have settled into a more natural, comfortable position: a total rockstar.
If you missed the show, check out a live version of Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian At Best” below!