It’s been way too long since I’ve seen Courtney Barnett, and at the 9:30 Club Wednesday night I was reminded of what I’d been missing since she performed in DC back in the summer of 2018. Since that time, she’s released a new album, Things Take Time, Take Time last year to critical praise. And rightly so. It’s full of gems like the earworm, “Rae Street” that leads off the record to “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To” which makes for the perfect vehicle for long drives with no particular place in mind.
Barnett tends to make those records that are easy to get lost in, like big welcome grooves, but she’s also a master of taking the inward and seemingly mundane and turning them — like any good writer — into a vivid tapestry. Like on “Here’s the Thing” — “The windowsill, is momentarily filled with sun / And it’s these small thrills, that get me through the day until the next one” — you can almost feel the warmth radiating from the glass.
Watch Courtney Barnett perform “Here’s the Thing” live for The Sound on YouTube:
Back at the 9:30 Club as the crowd shuffled out of the cold and into the increasingly packed hall on Feb. 2, I had to admire the stage set up — tall room lamps, draped curtains — that made for a home-like feel in this home-away-from-home. Starting off their set, Courtney and company eased into “Rae Street” from the new album with a combination of drum machine that seamlessly melded into the live kit.
The conversational nature of Barnett’s songwriting has a way of making the listener feel connected. Maybe it’s in the delivery in that matter-of-fact calm, but songs like “Sunfair Sundown,” as she repeats, “and I don’t want you to be alone,” there’s a connection there, and even more so when those words are sung live and on a stage. Even when she breaks into a guitar frenzy, it radiated across the packed club, and you can’t help but get caught up.
On the thumping bass and drum of the Neu!-influenced “Turning Green,” Courtney took over some percussion as the song bounced along with the thump, thump, thump of Dave Mudie’s drums and the bobbing bass lines of Bones Sloane. Mix that with the electronic wizardy of Stella Mozgawa (of the band Warpaint) and you have yourself something special.
The set showcased many newer songs — “Rae Street,” “Sunfair Sundown,” “Turning Green” — but there were plenty of older favorites too. From the crowd sing-a-long of “Depreston,” the guitar thrashing of “Elevator Operator” to the jangly pop of one of her oldest tunes, “Lance Jr,” it was a great mix.
As Courtney Barnett came back out to huge applause for the encore, the band played a couple of numbers from the new album, “Oh The Night” and my new favorite, “Before You Gotta Go,” a fitting end to a great night!
Courtney Barnett just finished two nights at the 9:30 Club this past Thursday, but her tour rolls on. Definitely catch her at a stop here.
The setlist included:
Need a Little Time
Here’s the Thing
Walkin’ on Eggshells
Pedestrian At Best
If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight
Write a List of Things to Look For
Oh The Night
Before You Gotta Go
Here are some photos of Courtney Barnett performing at the 9:30 Club on Feb. 2. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.