So everyone is here. It’s packed to the gunnels. There’s a kid who looks about 12. There are great big fat metal guys, indie girls with the expensive fringes. Sports casual boys and Topshop girls. Even yer da is here. Tonight’s sell out gig is an indication of why Courtney Barnett has found such unlikely popularity and why her album ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’ is one of the most acclaimed of 2015. Her appeal is wide. I saw people on my Twitter feed, from different generations and musical tastes, all talking about how excited they were for her Glasgow show. And on the surface, it should be nothing special. A young woman sings simple songs about things like a boy that intrigues her at the swimming pool, not really wanting to go out, sea pollution and skiving work. However it is, it is very special.
Courtney Barnett brings an unassuming charisma with her on to the stage. It could be a small bar she’s playing, or in someone’s front room the way she greets the crowd from under her fringe before the first song, ‘Elevator Operator’. She stands at the right hand side of the stage, rather than centre, backed by a drummer and bass player. The first few rows go suitably mental. I’m standing pretty much at the back, after arriving unfashionably late and people around me know every word to every song. There’s a slight grunge tinge to Barnett’s music, as well as hints of 90’s slacker rock. There are hooks and bridges. But it’s the words and voice that set Barnett apart. Her clever wordplay makes these tales of the sometimes mundane, sometimes lovely come to live and seep into the listener’s memory. It’s not all sweetness and light though. Setlist highlight ‘Kim’s Caravan’ has an unsettling dread about it, a line about the Great Barrier Reef being ‘raped beyond belief’ sticks out like glass in the flesh. Barnett wrestles a holy racket from her guitar during an actual wigout. It made me think of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Honestly, I’m not that old. It get’s one of the biggest cheers of the night. Fuckin’ Glasgow, folks.
There are amusing attempts at communication between artist and audience. However, distance, strong accents and lager are its enemies. But Barnett still seems polite. She manages to make a strange-shaped venue with ads everywhere for its titular mobile company sponsor and a fucking massive disco ball seem warm and intimate. She even dedicates a song to the disco ball. Thankfully not to the phone company. Almost-anthem ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party’ triggers the biggest bounce of the night down the front, and so it should. For the encore, support act Big Scary come back to join in on a cover of ‘Know Your Product’ by Australian rockers The Saints, saxophone and all. It could pass as a Barnett original. Brilliant fun.
Every magazine and website in the Western Hemisphere will be doing their Best of 2015 lists soon. Courtney Barnett will be all over them and you won’t get sick of her. She’s that good.