Wild, nihilistic and deeply intriguing as Courtney Barnett draws live comparisons with Cobain.
The music industry is awash with great Australian
talent at the moment. The latest (and second UK tour of the year) from Courtney Barnett
has seen three of those acts grace these shores. With Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
jetting back down under following the London show, it’s left to solo artist Laura Jean
to support headliner Barnett at the Dome in Brighton.
Having been releasing music for 15 years in her native Australia, Laura Jean
comes hot off the back of her fifth LP Devotion
released in June via Chapter Music
. Known for her somewhat-quirky folk sound, tonight’s performance does not disappoint.
Bedecked in a Phantom of the Opera sweatshirt that she admits “is on the line between acceptable and geek”, socks pulled high and a cap sitting low, Jean takes to the stage behind her “crappy 1980s keyboard” - stepping straight out of 2007’s Eagle vs Shark
. With songs that are surreal, sparse, yet irrefutably pretty, Jean tells a series of stories through and between songs that invite us to join her strange little world. Between sax solos and her Aussie sarcastic and jaunty humour, Laura Jean
is an intriguing artist and it’s easy to see how she sits alongside Courtney Barnett
is a woman on a mission it seems. After releasing 2 EPs and 2 solo records, playing backing guitar in her partner Jen Cloher’s
band, as well as a collaboration LP with Kurt Vile
and setting up the thriving Milk! Records
in her native Melbourne
. Plus, rather famously featuring on a certain former POTUS’s playlist
and starring performances on Jimmy Fallon
, she shows no sign of slowing down and the world has certainly taken note.
Her impressive stage setup and full live band belie her stripped back record sound and lo-fi aesthetics and testaments this rising star. Courtney Barnett
unleashes a wild yet hugely practised; confident and occasionally nonchalant performance that details the miles of road that Barnett has covered this year alone.
Her laid-back Aussie drawled sing-song stories of Millennial life
is contrasted by her wild and raucous guitar hammerings, which for those expecting a tame folk-y experience are pleasantly surprised. Comparisons with Dylan are obvious and in some ways doesn’t do justice to this deeply original and sage-like artist. Barnett’s tales of wistful modernity
and the challenges faced by a generation are refreshing and infectious, and it’s easy to see why she’s making such an impact.
The performance strangely parallels Dylan’s own transition from folk storyteller to electric rocker as the songs switch up and back. It’s when the statuesque and androgynous Barnett dips in 90s darker tones and post-grunge that she really shines and draws more comparison to Cobain, filling all possible space with guitar feedback and growls.
Inviting Laura Jean
back to the stage for a cover of ‘Streets of Your Town’
by The Go-Betweens
demonstrates Barnett’s commitment to support her musical contemporaries.
With flashes of Dadaism and occasional Nihilistic undertones, her performance and sound are intriguing and demonstrate a level of depth and intellect that show how far Barnett can yet develop. By the end of the show, the lyrics from ‘City Looks Pretty’
ring true, with the audience seemingly having made a new best friend and Barnett departing smiling yet appearing mindful of when she’ll next be home.
Photo credit: Colm Kelly