|Photo by Ken Sears
Based on her recorded material, Courtney Barnett is rock, sure. But she's not ROCK. Her live show is a completely different story. Her performance earlier this week at the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, NH was revelatory. Playing as just a three piece band, her songs were transformed from fun bouncy alt-rockers into full fledged early 90's style hard rock songs. "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch" became a straight up metal song. "Pedestrian At Best" could have easily been mistaken for a cover of Nirvana's "Breed," which I did at first. Her band played with that perfect mix of slacker looseness and professionalism you want in 90's style rock.
Not to mention that Barnett is an incredibly charismatic performer. While she chatted with the crowd a few times, her true charm is in her playing. She stalked virtually every inch of the stage while playing, with the entire crowd captivated the entire time. She has the draw of artists like Evan Dando and Kurt Cobain but without the self destructive tendencies. It was an energy not typically seen at Prescott Park, which is normally a venue where the crowd chills out on blankets and lawn chairs for the entire set. Courtney Barnett brought in some die hard fans who ditched the blankets for standing as close to the stage as fire codes allowed. It really helped the energy of the performance for everyone involved.
Do yourself a favor and go see Courtney Barnett as soon as you possibly can. She's grown as a performer exponentially since the last time I saw her (2015). It will be impossibly for her to not be playing small arenas by the time her next album rolls around.