SHOW REVIEW: Courtney Barnett at the Greek Theatre

  Photo Credit: Jordan Kessler

Photo Credit: Jordan Kessler

Courtney Barnett’s presence at The Greek Theater summoned fans young and old from all over LA to witness her rock star genius. From beginning to end, Barnett was jumping around the stage. She rocked from one leg to the other with fluid excitement pulling her in every direction at once. Despite her seemingly impromptu, ambulatory dance moves, she strutted with purpose, giving the photographers their perfect up-close shots as she paraded up and down the lip of the stage. The whole crowd was riveted, from the trendy teenage girls in the front row, to the senior couple videotaping “Pedestrian at Best”, to the guy in his early 30’s behind me releasing a quiet declaration, “I’m in love,”  every other song.

She began the show with the opening song from her latest album, “Hopefulessness”. Each subsequent song from the album Tell Me How You Really Feel was embedded with new life by Barnett’s performance. Her vocals drifted effortlessly in and out of time with the pace of the three piece band, a surprisingly large number of performers for Barnett’s shows. The guttural anger directed at misogynist society in “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” was felt behind every lyric spat out by Barnett. The stage was washed in blood red light, the color of the album and most of the merch being sold. The final chorus,

“I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch

hear you mutter under your breath

Put up or shut up, it’s all the same

It’s all the same, never changes, never changes”

ended in a roar that slammed in darker and darker echos until it faded out. During “Nameless, Faceless,” she screamed the painful truth penned by Margaret Atwood that “men are scared that women will laugh at them...women are scared that men will kill them” in the same deep, hoarse roar. She infused this stylized, rock vocalization into her 2015 song “Small Poppies”, huskily growling the final “eye” in the lyric “an eye for an eye for an eye”. In concert, she transitioned seamlessly between this violent, rock musicality and the melancholy vibes from her recorded albums - sometimes within the same songs. Crowds then sang along to Courtney Barnett’s classics including “History Eraser”, “Avant Gardener”, “Depreston”, “Elevator Operator”, and “Pedestrian at Best”. Barnett also wowed audiences with some of her newer pieces, including a cover of Elyse Weinberg’s “Houses,” which she recorded for Spotify Studios in August 2018. Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield joined Barnett on stage to perform a great duet redo of Weinberg’s song. One of the most exciting moments of the show came as a surprise. Audiences listened intently to “Small Talk,” Barnett’s single that launched the day before the concert. She bashfully introduced it only after playing the tune by saying, “That’s a brand new song. I’ve never played it before.” “Small Talk” has a country sounding guitar, which magically melded with these other diverse genres already in the mix. This concert was a perfect presentation of Courtney Barnett’s versatility as a musician and performer.

Jordan Kessler, DJ