In the six years or so since breaking onto the scene with her debut EP, A Sea of Split Peas, Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has seen her star continuously rise. With insightful lyrics centered on the frailties and anxieties of daily life, she fires off confessionals that resonate with folks dealing with many of the same struggles. She commanded The Bomb Factory stage Sunday night with the seasoned confidence of a veteran rock performer, and fans eagerly and passionately sang along.
She sings on her recent standout track, “City Looks Pretty,” “Sometimes I get sad. It’s not all that bad,” which are apt lyrics for a generation that regardless of age, seems to be in constant battle with doubt, grief and malaise. In this regard, Barnett is a willing spokeswoman. If there are misgivings, uncertainties or second thoughts, she’ll gladly put them in song. She writes with a confidence that belies the subject matter; her 2015 song “Avant Gardener,” performed Sunday night with epic, meandering thunder, tells the tale of an enormous panic attack experienced while performing the calming and mundane task of gardening. While we common folk express these sentiments in memes and hashtags, Barnett instead picks up her guitar and writes songs.
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She’s got many of them, all roaring with fervor and aplomb. With her grungy three-piece band (just a drummer and bassist were along onstage), she belted out quality song after song over the course of a concise 80-minute set. “Nameless, Faceless,” “Charity” and “Need a Little Time” were standouts from her latest album, the much-lauded Tell Me How You Really Feel. Almost a year after its release, those recent songs pack a punch that should keep them in steady rotation for the remainder of Barnett’s career. Her earlier material, the hard-charging “Elevator Operator” and the gracefully melodic “Depreston” chiefly among them, stood out with command and resonance. Like a true rock master, Barnett has positioned herself to be a long-term player.
While much has been written about the decline and gradual disappearance of rock music from the general scene, Barnett stands tall as the genre’s standard-bearer. With her guitar slung low, she sturdily shreds and solos with epic grandeur, punctuating the instrumental spaces between her lyrics with a grungy sheen reminiscent of Nirvana, Liz Phair and Crazy Horse-era Neil Young. The critics lamenting rock’s demise should spend more time at one of Barnett’s shows to see that the light is still shining strong. Barnett is no stranger to Dallas. Last time around on her own, she sold out Club Dada and then spent the remainder of the evening record shopping next door at Off The Record. Last year, she headlined The Majestic Theatre with Kurt Vile as the duo toured behind their collaborative LP Lotta Sea Lice. As much of the upper level was closed off, The Bomb Factory might have been slightly ambitious as the next choice of venue, but those in attendance were locked in. Fans hollered requests, threw their hands in the air and showered Barnett with love. It’s a scene that has to warm Barnett’s heart. The honesty and genuine candor of her songwriting certainly reverberates with many.
City Looks Pretty
Need a Little Time
I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch
Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence
Are You Looking After Yourself?
Pedestrian at Best