Courtney Barnett live in Manchester: an unforgettable stop amidst the Aussie’s stadium run

Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett returns to the UK in blistering form as she plays a whistle-stop tour of intimate UK venues between Foo Fighters tour support.

It has been a while since the Aussie artist has graced UK shores – she is here playing a couple of dates with rock monoliths Foo Fighters, most recently opening for them at Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground before heading to London. She bounds on stage at 9pm sharp to rapturous applause.

Barnett has five studio records, a couple of live recordings and a superb collaborative effort with Kurt Vile – all of this means that her touring outfit can be large, but for this tour she is working with only two other musicians, a drummer and a bassist. The trio make considerable noise, and as they launch into ‘Ray Street’ from Things Take Time, Take Time there is a palpable difference to her sound. They’re heavier, grungier and have everything turned up to 11.

This becomes increasingly apparent throughout the night, ‘Avant Gardener’ and ‘Need A Little Time’ are massive moments early doors: CB has a knack for sending these tunes into the stratosphere with some extra-heavy instrumentals. As the cuts break into their instrumental parts, solos and middle-eights, she stomps on a pedal and sends them into overdrive, launching herself around the stage as she thrashes out a face-melter of a solo, or a series of powerchords. The show has clearly been geared up to fill the huge stages she is playing with Foo Fighters, and the songs blend into one another. The band create gigantic walls of feedback and fuzz between each tune, which has a colossal effect in the small room: the reverberations shake the floor, and vibrate up the spines and around the ribcages of everyone inside Band On The Wall – it is quite a sensational thing to experience.

CB is on tip-top form tonight, and she rattles through tune after tune at lightning speed, pausing only for a quick “thank you!” between songs. The evening feels like a victory lap for Barnett, and as the show isn’t attached to an album tour she is clearly playing with utter freedom, which translates beautifully into her set. She is a ball of energetic joy, which transmits to her adoring crowd, it seriously feels like something monumental is happening in the Northern Quater this evening. She is able to turn her hand to different disciplines, and whether she is belting out angular, feminist tunes like ‘Nameless, Faceless’ and ‘I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch’, or taking things down the introspective, existential indie-melancholia of ‘Depreston’ or ‘Lance Jr’, every aspect of it works on a different level.

She even wheels out ‘On Script’ from the exceptional Lotta Sea Lice (her collaborative record with Kurt Vile): the show is tailor-made for Barnett fans, and the crowd respond in turn, showering her in adoration.’History Eraser’ is a highlight, it’s an early number of hers, that is given the full grunge-treatment. With added fuzz and a kick up in tempo, it sounds like something from Nirvana’s Bleach. It is a crowning moment on an utterly triumphant evening.

We are treated to a short encore, where Barnett initially strides out solo, and delivers a powerful rendition of ‘Oh The Night’, just CB and her guitar. The soft lighting bathes her in yellow, and the silver trim on her Fender Jag creates columns of light illuminating individual audience members. It’s a beautiful moment.

Her band joins her for a massive rendition of ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party’, which feels like a crowning moment on an unforgettable show.

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