Review | Courtney Barnett shows off her range at Perth Festival

Courtney Barnett | The Rechabite | ★ ★ ★ ★

A crafter of forceful bangers with interesting insight to the world around us, a somewhat unexpected range of emotions came of Courtney Barnett’s performance at The Rechabite on Saturday night. Perth Festival proving to be the perfect occasion for the Melbourne indie rocker to change pace.

The murmur of conversation was broken by a low creeping synth from local duo Erasers. A steady flow of trance-like drum machines and humming synthesizers kept audience members swaying hypnotically, punctuated by one of the members strapping on a guitar to add some spaghetti western inspired riffs and floating, dreamy chords from time to time.

Erasers might’ve seemed like an unusual choice of opener, until a clean guitar chord maintained by delay accompanied a silhouette of Courtney Barnett, head down in focus on her guitar. Perched across the stage surrounded by an array of technology was Stella Mozgawa. The sounds created followed on perfectly from their support act. Easing in songs from End of the Day, soundtrack to the documentary Anonymous Club.

With the aid of a looper, crystal clear soundscapes were formed out of her instrument. Vison of Courtney from behind wandering through the bush from the soundtrack’s accompanying film projected on the screen behind. Providing a much-welcomed context to the music’s deep spaceyness. Implements including a pencil and a violin bow were used to create sounds. Barnett’s engagement with her instrument visible as it effected the audience likewise. The soundscape bounced between relaxing Pink Floyd inspired chord progressions to ominous incidental music creating horror movie like suspense. Culminating in the hypnotic Get On With It.

Droning delay rang out as a mic stand was set up before Courtney retuned to the stage solo. A simple hello was the first patrons heard of her voice all night. She immediately entered her own world from the first song of the show’s second portion. However, the intense focus from before gave way to a more jovial mood. A quiet singalong was audible from some portions of the crowd. Courtney encouraged more volume from the choir assembled, with the audience rising to the call on Avant Gardener.

A clean, dry guitar tone effected only by the room’s reverberation, rang out ethereally. Showcasing her unique playing style, with licks inspired by country rock played with tasteful scratchiness and Kurt Cobain attitude. While cheeky fretboard work added lead lines and those catchy melodies into her freewheel strumming. Particularly on songs like Walking On Eggshells and Need A Little Time.

Overall, this event captured Courtney Barnett in a unique setting. While no stranger to performing without a band, the addition of the film element and performing potentially polarising music, presented a fuller picture of an artist. A genuine feeling of intent listening came across the packed out Rechabite, showing her fanbase isn’t closed off to this side. Her warmth and sincerity during the latter part of the show, felt like the warm hug you need after a rough week.

Courtney Barnett was in town for Perth Festival 2024. Check out the full program at perthfestival.com.au

AJ Mahar is a Perth based arts writer. A former musician, he brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to print. Along with a passion for all things creative.

Images: Sophie Minissale


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