Rock lives on with Barnett
House of Blues Boston, Boston, October 21, 2018
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
For those who have proclaimed the death of rock, Courtney Barnett may be the perfect antidote.
The indie rock-based Aussie singer offers no no shtick, no gimmickry. Just straight-ahead, often (but not exclusively) charging music that pops.
Barnett made that clear from the start with "Hopefulessness," "City Looks Pretty" and "Avant Gardner." Barnett came out with her axe, setting the stage for a night of guitar-driven rock.
Barnett, whose vocals could be clearly heard above the musical fray, has a proclivity for dense songs from a musical standpoint. Not so dense though because there were lots of bodies shaking and heads bobbing, no surprise because the songs also are commercially viable.
Credit also Barnett for a simple, but beautiful staging with her lighting. With a curtain behind the stage and six lightstands adorning the back of the stage, Barnett utilized lots of red and lime green coloration. Simple, but effective and eye catching.
Less one think that Barnett was a one trick pony musically, she played the brand new "Small Talk," which is on a collection put out by her old label, Mom + Pop Records. Barnett practically turns it into a talking song at points with the protagonist clearly not into idle conversation.
Barnett also deviated from the rock bent on "Lance, Jr." performed with opening act Waxahatchee with both singing beautifully on a song that could pass for Americana. As if to underscore that vibe, Barnett (she did play Newport Folk Fest in July, although that may have been stretching the limits of what NFF covers) turned in a compelling take on Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' "Everything is Free" to lead off the encore.
In reality, Barnett is a rocker and proud of it. With acts like Barnett plying their wares so admirably, the death of rock has been greatly exaggerated.
Waxahatchee aka Katie Crutchfield, was solo acoustic, save for a stretch with help from Barnett's guitarist Katie Harkin, who colored the songs. Crutchfield has a lovely, pleasant, full sounding voice. It wasn't a given that she could fill the stage without much accompaniment, but that was no problem given her vocal abilities.
Waxahatchee even weathered saying she didn't know the Red Sox were in the World Series, perhaps not the ideal comment to make given that this is a rabid sports town and the Sox play literally across the street.
At least, she didn't pander to the hometown crowd. Hey, perhaps she's like Barnett in doing things their own way. On nights like this, that made for a most satisfying night - even if (especially if?) it rocked.