With songs that often celebrate ordinary, everyday joys like gardening and making a good latte, Courtney Barnett sure was extraordinarily comforting Saturday night at the Palace Theatre.
The droll, sunburned-sounding Australian rocker made no mention of COVID on stage in St. Paul, nor did she offer any speeches about the state of the world. She didn't even say anything about the harsh, wintry weather outside — a sharp contrast to what she was raised on in Sydney, and to her last two summery, outdoor appearances in the Twin Cities (at Rock the Garden and Surly Brewing Festival Field).
Instead, the 34-year-old singer/songwriter steamrolled through 18 songs in 90 minutes on only the second show of her 2022 tour. Her no-nonsense approach and repetitive, often Velvet Underground-like, guitar-driven grooves created a laid-back zone-out zone for the nearly 2,000 masked fans.
Barnett opened with two songs all about relishing mundane, homebound pleasures, "Rae Steet" and "Sunfair Sundown" — both from her new album "Things Take Time, Take Time," which was mostly written during lockdown. In the paisley-poppy latter tune, she sang, "You've escaped the rat race, as they say / Now you're settling in for the stay anyway."
The crowd settled in as she tore through her wry and hazy 2014 breakout hit "Avant Gardner" (played with added oomph and swagger like Lou Reed's revision of "Sweet Jane") followed by the 2018 nugget "Need a Little Time" (which edged on a blues shuffle).
Then came more of the lost-but-content-sounding songs from the new record, during which the addition of a keyboardist to her now-four-piece band helped flesh out the sunny melodies.
"I've never seen you so happy," Barnett sang during the kraut-rock-groovy "Turning Green," a song in which she sweetly urged, "I hear all your fears and they are understandable, my friend / They're never gonna serve you in the end."
Things did get ugly at times. "Pedestrian at Best" was amped up into Nirvana-style bombast. She and bassist Bones Sloane also sang "History Eraser" with a snarling ferocity near show's end.
As if apologetic about that noisy ire, Barnett said she wanted to "leave on a high note," meaning an upbeat one. She did just that before the encore with the onward-themed new song "Write a List of Things to Look Forward to." More straight-ahead, carefree rock shows like this are hopefully something to look forward to.
- Rae Street
- Sunfair Sundown
- Avant Gardender
- Need a Little Time
- Small Poppies
- Turning Green
- Here's the Thing
- Walkin' on Eggshells
- On Script
- Lance Jr.
- Elevator Operator
- Pedestrian at Best
- If I Don't Hear From You Tonight
- History Eraser
- Write a List of Things to Look Forward to
- Oh the Night
- Before You Gotta Go