REVIEW: Courtney Barnett at Pabst Theater

Photo by Melissa Miller

It was a chilly night the night that Courtney Barnett took to Pabst Theater. That didn’t stop the crowd from selling the place out. Since the pandemic I don’t think I’ve been a show that packed and let me tell you, it felt great to have that again. The indie rocker darling clearly has amassed a following that was so excited to see her play and she played her damn heart out. Having her at the Pabst really added to the whole vibe of the show. Something about her looking clean-cut but playing downright grungy music fit in a way I never thought it could before. 

The Band

Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer, songwriter and musician. Known for her deadpan singing style and witty, rambling lyrics, she attracted attention with the release of her debut EP I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris in 2012. International interest came with the release of her EP The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas in 2013

Courtney’s sound is comparable to the shoegaze rockers of the early 90’s scene. By blending fuzzy, distorted grunge rock guitar with melancholy lyrics she reminds me of a different time all while staying wholly original and a stand-out rocker in her own way. While she has a backing band, she steals the shows with the screeching guitar solos and writhing on stage that brings you into what she is feeling as she plays.

The Experience

Courtney Barnett is anything but pretentious when it comes to her music. As noted by her deadpan vocal stylings in her songs she brings that same energy to the stage, which was refreshing in a sense. Somehow she mixes the “I don’t want to be here” vibe of a rock star, while also making the audience feel like there is nowhere else she would rather be. Maybe it’s the Australian coolness in her but I was absolutely digging it. In between her songs she would interact with the audience a bit while entertaining the “We love you Courtney” screams from the audience while she tuned her guitar for the next song. 

Starting with her newest hit, Rae Street, fresh off her album, “Things Take Time, Take Time” it was clear that this show was different. Over the past ten years, Courtney created some truly beautiful music and plenty of hits in that time. She played damn near every song I would consider a hit by her and even incorporated some more of the ballads. By the end of the set, I couldn’t believe we got to hear as many songs as we did in an hour and a half set. 

One thing that Courtney does better than any other artist right now in my opinion plays with her sound as she is actively playing. She switches between guitar pedals multiple times to get that pitch-perfect sound. Well maybe not pitch-perfect, but the perfect amount of distorted fuzz that she does so well. It makes for a fun show seeing her switch up her guitar and dial it into exactly where she likes it and then proceeds to play a wailing solo. 

The Verdict

Courtney Barnett is flipping cool. Her music is unlike anything else right now. She has the indie rocker market cornered and she hopefully will continue to do this for a long time. I highly recommend going to see Courtney Barnett if you get the option, especially to see her wail on the guitar.


Courtney Barnett at Pabst Theater

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