Review & Photos | Courtney Barnett | Cambridge

By Andy Kahn May 20, 2015 9:50 pm PDT

Words & Images by: Andrew Bruss

Courtney Barnett :: 5.18.2015 :: The Sinclair :: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Courtney Barnett kicked off her summer tour with a sold out set at The Sinclair that made clear to her Boston-area audience why it’s unlikely they’ll ever see her perform in a club-sized venue again. 

The Aussie darling of the neo-garage rock movement has been garnering a great deal of acclaim for her freshman release this past March, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Big buzz followed her around SXSW and helped her sell out venues from New York to Colorado and California. When she came to Harvard Square, her audience was ready and waiting long before she took the stage. 

The songstress fronted a trio that brought Nirvana to mind in more ways than one. Her hard-hitting drummer Dave Mudie played on a sparsely minimalist kit while her long-haired bassist Bones Sloane thrashed his head around while picking from behind the string, creating a plucky, Krist Novoselic-esque bass tone. As for Barnett, in case her lefty Fender Jaguar didn’t bring Cobain comparisons to mind, her stage presence did. Between songs she engaged her audience in witty stage banter that masked an obvious nervousness she has dealing with the scale of her newfound celebrity. Mid-song, however, she thrashed and flailed around like nobody was watching. 

The highlight of the set was “Kim’s Caravan,” a sad, slow building tale of a narrator lacking any semblance of an identity. As the song built, it combusted into a fuzz-heavy spaced out jam that saw Barnett and her two band mates completely let go of any and all inhibitions as they raged through their instruments with reckless abandon. 

Toward the end of the set, the trio paid homage to their grunge influences with a cover of “Cannonball” by The Breeders, an act whose front woman, Kim Deal, was also a founding member of Pixies. 

The set closed with a run through “Pedestrian at Best,” the single off their LP which brings Patti Smith to mind. Unfortunately the live mix was blasted either as a mistake or to emphasize the tune, but the result was a heavy low end that drowned out Barnett’s vocals.

For a 26-year-old from the opposite side of the world, Courtney Barnett has done alright for herself, and while she’s been playing for years, I imagine the overnight growth of her audiences is a bit of a shock. As a performer she still has room to grow more comfortable in her own skin to catch up with the ease you hear on her studio product. That said, it was obvious to anyone in attendance that by the end of this tour, she’ll be dominating her stage like she’s been doing it since birth. 

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