LIVE: Courtney Barnett, 'From Where I'm Standing'

Creating a palpable chemistry between herself and Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building, Barnett's livestream performance blended warmth and grandeur, something maybe even a live performance couldn’t even deliver.
Posted: 18 December 2020 Words: Rebecca Ormsby

'From Where I'm Standing' begins with a deep-seated discussion with Courtney Barnett, who illustrates the unsure grounds that the pandemic has all of us on. Footage of the bandmates entering the Royal Exhibition Building in masks commences before guest speaker, Gheran Yarraman Steel shares profound words about the Boon Wurrung Foundation. He mentions the unspoken history of Melbourne’s aboriginal people, and the importance of honouring their stolen sacred land. This drives the livestream with a sense of respect for the spiritual ground it takes place on.

The performance begins, focussed upon a solitary Courtney, who commences with her spirited hit, ‘City Looks Pretty’.  The discreet rendition then collapses into one more dynamic as the camera reveals three bandmates, distanced across the lavish and arresting exhibition building. White light beams through the big windows onto the band as the song ‘Walking on Eggshells’ begins. Courtney harmonises with her bandmate as the cello player anoints the song with a sense of symphonic nostalgia, creating a sense of suspenseful excitement within its audience watching through a screen. 

Courtney featured three new songs on the livestream: the first, ‘Write a List of Things to Look Forward to’, has glaringly been written in our time of apocalypse. It is about someone watching the ”world burn” whilst wanting to see someone far away, a sense of longing we possibly all can find relatable, a theme which carried through in her two other new songs featured during the set. The atmosphere seems to darken with the melancholy track, ‘Here’s the Thing’, discussing the importance of “small thrills” in this time of isolation. 

Courtney creates a strange chemistry between herself and the powerful venue surrounding her, humbling it’s largeness with her vulnerable and familiar lyricism. This produces a wonderful culmination of warmth and grandeur, something maybe even a live performance couldn’t even deliver. 

Two covers are featured on the livestream. One being, ‘We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing”, a tribute to Silver Jews’ late frontman David Berman, who sadly passed away last year. Although the building is now completely dark, the upbeat harmonies and cheery guitar chords of this song brings the livestream into lightheartedness, which continues until it’s end. 

To hear more from Courtney Barnett, click here.

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