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The night kicked off with a tight set from soulful garage rock of locals Polish Club, making a lot of noise for just a guitar and drum duo. Then came Teeth & Tongue.
The sort-of solo project of Jess Cornelius (remember the dirty dark punk rock of Moscow Schoolboy?), has grown over the years to become a five piece live band. Lead by Cornelius’ distinctly rich deep vocals and clean guitars, the band delivered a relaxed but controlled performance.
An electronic drum pad and synths took their power goth sound to another level, Kate Bush via 4AD. The confident Newborn, carried by the melted harmonies of Cornelius and back up singer Jade McInally, would slot in neatly into PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. T&T closed the set with new song Turn, which started off sounding like Everything But The Girl, before slipping into The Beach Boys’ Kokomo and finally splintering off into a spacey synth-lead freakout.
It’s a little perplexing just how fast, and far, Courtney Barnett has got recently. Not that she doesn’t have the songs or the talent to back up the hype. Four chord garage pop cut from the same cloth as You Am I and introspective lyrics that tumble on top of each other are her thing, but occasionally, on the record, songs bleed into each other.
But live, and with her band CB3, Barnett is in her element. Her critically-acclaimed debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, is a lot rockier than her earlier EPs but when played live the songs take another shape. They’re louder, fuzzier and demand attention.
Her earlier songs – Canned Tomatoes (Whole), Lance Jr, even History Eraser – feel fuller live and sit comfortably alongside newer material, like opener Elevator Operator, Dead Fox and Pedestrian At Best.
Barnett possesses a magnetism that never feels forced, highlighted by the haunting Kim’s Caravan. Under dimmed purple lights, the mood shifted to sombre as Barnett delivered the stark lyrics and all those slack(er) comparisons to Cobain made absolute sense. “Play a sad song?” she deadpanned afterwards, not looking at anyone in particular. “We don’t have any. That was our happiest song.”
Towards the end, Barnett managed to sneak in a cover of The Breeder’s classic Cannonball, which was recorded for The AV Club late last year. Stripped of it’s trademark ‘uh-oohs’ and stop-start pacing, Barnett’s version was messier but still packed the punch of the original.
For the encore, Barnett returned alone to the stage, to immense applause. “Shut the f**k up,” she said quickly, “this song is quiet.”
Cue the loud shushing that sweeps over the crowd, greeting Barnett’s gentle cover of The Lemonheads’ Being Around. Drummer Dave Maudie joined for History Eraser, before bassist Bones Sloan rejoined for their final song, the easy sing-along Pickles From The Jar.
Image: Courtney Barnett @ The Metro, Sydney 08/05/15 / Photo: Ashley Mar