Courtney Barnett at O2 Academy (1 Dec ’15)



The first of two gigs on consecutive days in the same venue, the O2 Academy in town, was for Aussie wordsmith Courtney Barnett.

I’d seen her once before when she played at The Zanzibar as part of Liverpool Sound City in May 2014, although the venue was so packed and sweaty that I didn’t really get to actually see that much (see my review here).

There were two support acts on, but unfortunately I only made it in time to catch local band Zuzu’s final number, after managing to grab a (decanted) bottle of London Pride from the bar.



They were a power poppy bunch in a selection of pretty poor shirts (seemingly by design), who had obviously gone down very well with the audience. A band I will keep an eye out for.

The DJ then spun some great tunes, including The B-52’s and The Box Tops’ wonderful The Letter, a US #1 single in 1967 featuring the vocals of the sixteen-year old, pre-Big Star Alex Chilton.

Then came Aussies Big Scary who were the main support for Courtney’s tour. However, I found them all a little bit dull, rather like a second rate Keane crossed with Ben Folds – perhaps you can tell keyboards featured heavily in the sound?


Big Scary

Tom Iansek’s vocals were pseudo-rap at times, with some Prince falsetto also thrown into the mix on a funkier track referencing a girl who “likes her coffee black”, with guitar instead of keyboards on this one.

Courtney’s drummer Dave Mudie came on to play bass for a few numbers, so the bassist broke out the sax. The first song with this expanded line-up was the pick of their set, the somewhat Unknown Mortal Orchestra-esque Organism which featured a good minimalist keyboard solo.

Subsequent keyboard solos were less impressive, with one sounding like some bad seventies sci-fi soundtrack, while other influences became apparent in the music, like disco, No New York and New Order on a particularly rocking number.


Big Scary with Dave Mudie

Drummer Joanna Syme was clearly the spokesperson for the band, also keeping a steady beat throughout the set. The last number, Twin Rivers, made for a rather downbeat ending. Feel free to listen to a couple of their songs on the Spotify playlist at the end of this article and like them more than I did – it’s all a matter of personal taste after all.

The DJ then briefly continued the Aussie theme, moving from Melbourne to Brisbane for the glorious The Go-Betweens, before digging out some M. Ward and Sleater-Kinney and then David Bowie’s wonderful Suffragette City.


Courtney Barnett

Finally it was time for Courtney Barnett. Amazingly, she started her set with my favourite track off the new album, Elevator Operator. And then followed it up with my favourite song of hers of them all, Avant Gardener with a lovely crunchy guitar solo at its climax.

When the third song was Dead Fox, probably my second pick off Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, I was loving it, but rather worried that the set had peaked (far) too early. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case as I was reminded of how excellent both this year’s album and the previous ep’s are, with her verbiage bringing to mind the likes of Bob Dylan and Stephen Malkmus and The Fall’s Mark E. Smith.

Visually, Barnett reminded me most of the wonderful Eleanor Friedberger, and was sporting a Flashdance t-shirt, with both drummer Mudie and bassist Andrew Sloane both having an air of Foo FightersDave Grohl about them.

Small Poppies’ basic guitar work mutated into some kind of crazed Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr. hybrid. Shortly after came An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) featuring much janglier six-string work.


Courtney Barnett & band

Depreston inspired a mass singalong, curiously enough for a song about house hunting. Echo-y guitar on Boxing Day Blues (Revisited), a single sequel to the final track on the album, was soon followed by the guitar frenzy of Kim’s Caravan.

The set ended with two more excellent numbers off the album, Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party and Pedestrian At Best.

Courtney and band returned after a few minutes with Big Scary in tow, and together they all performed an Aussie classic in The SaintsKnow Your Product, off 1978’s second album Eternally Yours. A great encore choice – personally I love a band to do a good cover in their live sets, as it tells you something more about them and gives you something different to the records.


Courtney Barnett, band & Big Scary

Big Scary then went off, leaving the main three-piece to close proceedings with History Eraser from second ep How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose.

Another really good gig to add to this year’s cavalcade of great nights, and I shared my positive thoughts with the omnipresent Peter Guy from Getintothis who I bumped into on the way out of the venue, as we each headed to a pub to get some better and cheaper refreshment than that offered in the Academy.

So, I ended the evening with a very nice pint of porter in The North Western.

Tonight’s t-shirt

I wore a red Triffids t-shirt, due to the Aussie link. There were a few Courtney tees in the crowd, with the only other ones I spotted being Ian McNabb and two Arctic Monkeys ones.

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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify:


2 responses to “Courtney Barnett at O2 Academy (1 Dec ’15)

  1. Pingback: Public Enemy at O2 Academy (2 Dec ’15) | undilutable slang truth·

  2. Pingback: 2015 in review | undilutable slang truth·

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