It’s a great, vital set, showcasing the very best of an artist who over the last few years has always seemed to be in the background, coming up with good stuff with little fuss or fanfare.
She opens with ‘Hopefulessness’, a brooding song with a fittingly awkward title. It sums up the conflicted spirit of Barnett’s 2018 album ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ a sometimes defiant, sometimes joyous, sometimes troubled album.
Single ‘City Looks Pretty’ follows, and its chorus of ‘Sometimes I get sad, it’s not all that bad’ is Barnett in a nutshell – human, self-deprecating, subtly cutting. The band – a four-piece – are excellent.
‘Avant Gardener’, an early single about a panic attack while gardening and the first Courtney Barnett song I ever heard, is beefed right up. It manages to be even better than on record.
As well as being a very good songwriter, Barnett is a sparky, charismatic guitar player. Tonight has more squalling guitar solos than you would expect from the writer of those early EP’s.
Very little of the performance is quiet or dreamy or meandering, and that suits me just fine. For me, Barnett is at her best when she is heavier, more instant, more lyrically sharp.
Perhaps excluding the sleepy encore ‘Anonymous Club’, she is all of these for every song tonight. ‘Nameless, Faceless’, a Margaret Atwood-quoting single about the dread of walking alone while being a woman, didn’t fully click with me on the album, but here it is righteous and precise. One of the best moments of the night.