Whether she’s playing the 1980s indie-rock of The Go-Between in Streets of Your Town or replacing the country twang of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawling’s Everything is Free with a solo vocal performance accompanied only by a stripped back electric guitar backing, it’s clear Courtney Barnett’s influences are wide-ranging. And whilst these disparate covers both fit seamlessly into tonight’s set, proving she has the musicality to pull off just about anything, where she really shines is lyrically.
It’s in her words that she strikes the real chord with her audience, whether it’s through wry observations about the state of the housing market in Depreston or confronting the threat of violence against women in Nameless Faceless, she brings relatable and witty storytelling to her music. There are lighter moments too of course, and some lyrics that if you really listen will make you laugh out loud, but they are never insipid and you won’t find her pandering to anyone just to sell more records. Even in these moments, there is an openness and honesty to her songwriting – as well as her instantly recognisable drawling deadpan delivery – that is refreshing in a world of glossy social media-ready persona.
And though much of the audience seem to believe she’s saved the best until last with Pedestrian at Best, for me the highlight has to be Avant Gardener, because it so perfectly exemplifies what she’s all about: taking any subject she chooses, even something as seemingly banal as Monday morning gardening, and bringing it to life in a way that’s interesting, honest and relatable. It’s precisely this down-to-earth character and artistry that makes Courtney Barnett such a star.