This is the third visit to Glasgow in 18 or so months for Courtney Barnett, three different venues all within a couple of hundred yards of one another. The short distance between them and their ever increasing capacities could easily represent the affable Australian’s career trajectory so far. Tonight we’re in the ABC and the Sold Out notice is evident on the venue’s old-school cinema sign. That’s about 1,300 or so people crammed in, we’re not talking small venues anymore, and the hall is as packed with excitement and anticipation as it is with people.
Tonight’s set kicks off with ‘Elevator Operator’ and is immediately followed by ‘Avant Gardener’, the amusing tale of panic attacks which is a firm favourite to perhaps half the audience and completely unknown to the other half. This trend continues throughout the set, the best reception is for songs from 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit album. A glorious rendition of ‘Depreston’ is a particular favourite, the sound of the audience singing along is sweet over Courtney’s own vocals.
There’s two key differences I notice between tonight’s grand affair and the the previous times I’ve seen Courtney Barnett. First of all, Courtney seems a bit quieter than usual between songs, much less banter, just a quick ‘Thanks’ and it’s onto the next song. This does change a little as the set goes on and her charisma starts to shine like the disco ball suspended above the audience which she tells us is apparently the world’s biggest and which is used to full effect during ‘Nobody Really Cares if you Don’t Go to the Party’. The other is that during previous shows Courtney would be beaming during songs, strumming and smiling away at everyone, clearly delighted to be on the stage. Tonight she seems completely consumed by the noise she’s creating, and it’s loud. She’s on her knees, on her back, crawling and clawing at her guitar as though it’s getting taken from her and she’ll never get it back. She’s completely captivated and captivating.
Two standouts from the set are the slower moments from the latest album. Both ‘Small Poppies’ and ‘Kim’s Caravan’ sound devastating, sombre and heartfelt one moment, swirling in feedback the next, the shredding of guitar strings makes me wonder how there’s any skin left on Courtney’s left hand. The set ends with a buzzing and deafening ‘Pedestrian at Best’ which it seems half the crowd have been patiently waiting for and they don’t hesitate to bounce enthusiastically. The first encore is fun, a cover of The Saints ‘Know Your Product’ where their mates from support act Big Scary join in before the night ends with a rocking ‘History Eraser’, another reminder that the earlier EPs feature just as many great songs as the hit album.
So where does it go from here? Can the venues keep getting bigger? There’s certainly enough excitement and adoring fans to suggest this could grow and grow and Courtney Barnett doesn’t seem the type to rest on her laurels. She’s a perfect example of how the combination of hard work, relentless touring and, above all, songwriting talent can pay off. It all looks like a fun adventure from a fan perspective. She’s a joy to watch.