LIVE REVIEW: Courtney Barnett, Newcastle University

Courtney Barnett.
Courtney Barnett.

WITH freezing winds and brutal hail wreaking havoc outside, Courtney Barnett’s show brought a much needed bolt of Aussie sunshine to an otherwise dire Tuesday night.

Showcasing her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, the 27-year-old has spent recent weeks riding a wave of critical adulation for her wordy indie rock - and tonight’s sold-out crowd suggested the public are taking heed too.

Having visited the city last year, the diminutive songwriter won’t have been too taken aback by the adverse weather, though the same may not have been true of her opener and fellow Melbourner Fraser A. Gorman.

An obvious disciple of Dylan, his solo set and endearingly awkward persona nevertheless got the accumulating crowd onside, not least when he recovered from a PA blackout mid-song.

Manchester’s Spring King, meanwhile, atoned for their rather less exotic base with their terrifically thrashy, hyperactive brand of indie pop, serving only to brighten the already buoyant mood.

Armed with sizzling energy, an arsenal of instant tunes and the novelty of a singing drummer, it’s little wonder the quartet have already scooped support from the likes of Radio 1 and Triple J.

They’re ones to watch for sure, and in many ways came close to stealing the show, though in Courtney Barnett it had a headliner whose bundle of melodies can more than hold their own.

Playing as part of a live power trio, her penchant for disarmingly simple slacker nuggets shone from the off, with each and every cut loaded with subtly seductive hooks and crisp, concise guitar leads.

The biggest pull, however, are her lyrics; quirky quips at the mundanities of modern life, all delivered in a deadpan, irreverent drawl that’s leant her a true distinctive edge.

Dead Fox, for instance, finds her in the supermarket pondering the pesticide content of her vegetables, while the stellar surf pop of Aqua Profunda! elects to shun big waves and beach BBQs for an afternoon at the swimming baths.

Both are taken from the new album - yet in a way it’s a record whose quality is defined by numbers which didn’t make the cut.

The obvious example here is Avant Gardener, 2013’s gloriously wry breakthrough in which she describes a panic attack while seeing to the flowerbeds (sample lyric: “the paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar. I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people dying”), which was greeted with perhaps the night’s biggest cheer.

Showing her capacity to rock, fellow EP-only track History Eraser was just as good, and bettered only by current single Pedestrian at Best, whose scuzzy hair-flailing crunch could just as easily have spawned from late ‘80s Seattle.

Perhaps the finest moment, though, was Depreston, a wonderfully tender and withdrawn dilemma concerning not love, but rather house-hunting in a rough and tatty neighbourhood.

It’s been a set staple for a while now, yet was greeted with particular warmth from the packed-out audience, which as she noted was somewhat larger than that she played for at The Cluny 2 just 10 months ago.

With her live sparkle and everygirl charm intact, there’s no reason why her next visit can’t see another upgrade.