REVIEW: Courtney Barnett played a flawless set at The Riv

Courtney Barnett

The Riv // Chicago, IL // October 18, 2018

The city looks pretty when Courtney Barnett is in town.

There are a few artists who I will drop everything to see. Courtney Barnett is one of those artists. Her most recent album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, has been on rotation for months on my Spotify playlist, but seeing Barnett play her emotionally-charged tracks live is an experience in itself. The Riv was packed with thousands of fans packed to the top of the balcony, but the crowd was impressively silent during Barnett’s opening track, “Hopefulessness”. As she came onstage, the tiny Christmas lights that dotted the stage illuminated the band, but only enough to make out their silhouettes. “Hopefulessness” has a dark and eerie vibe, but Barnett’s inviting voice and energetic gaze had the audience completely captivated. As the song built to its instrumental climax, the stage filled with blood red lighting: a photographer’s nightmare, but a perfect fit for the moment.

As Barnett segued into “City Looks Pretty”, the stage exploded in a rainbow of lights and the audience started to dance. The mood shifted from somber to kitschy in a matter of seconds. Barnett knows her audience and herself, and that confidence shows in her lyrics (perhaps best, ironically, in “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence”). Barnett’s album Tell Me How You Really Feel is full of tongue-in-cheek lyrics that manage to break your heart while also lifting you up, something the Australian singer-songwriter is a pro at. She doesn’t speak with the audience much, which only adds to the slight mystique she carries with her at every gig. It takes a true wordsmith to be completely open in her songs yet still leave her fans wondering what she’s really like.

Courtney Barnett is currently on tour in Europe, for tickets click HERE.

Courtney Barnett