Courtney Barnett, the impish 26-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist from Melbourne, Australia, has had the weight of the rock world thrust on her slim shoulders in the last few months. Various media, from the New York Post to Salon, have declared her the next Bob Dylan while the Wall Street Journal hailed her as “a fairty tale blend of a young Lucinda Williams and PJ Harvey.”
And, along with Fort Worth’s Leon Bridges, she was the talk of South by Southwest this year.
That’s a heavy burden of hype to carry and so many “next Dylans” have stumbled under the load. But, judging from her dynamic 70-minute set at Club Dada’s outdoor patio Saturday night, Barnett just might not only survive but thrive.
What distinguishes Barnett from so many of her indie-rock contemporaries is her attention to lyrical detail. Her recent album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, is full of songs -- such as Depreston (about moving to a less trendy neighborhood in ultra-hipster Melbourne) and Elevator Operator (about a kid in the city who “fair evades his way down the 96 tram line”) -- that paint a vivid picture of the world in which she lives. Her talk-sing vocal style only adds to the sense of a very personal take on storytelling. In broad strokes, she has a lot in common with another notable Australian songwriter of a previous generation, Paul Kelly.
Yet Barnett has a noisier, rock’n’roll heart and that’s what was on display Saturday as she kicked out the jams that culminated in a one-two punch of a cover of The Breeders’ Cannonball and her fiery radio hit, Pedestrian at Best. While she is more subdued on her albums, where it’s possible to appreciate her lyrical nuances, that all goes out the window in a live setting. Barnett -- keeping it simple with just bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie to back her -- cranked through much of Sit and Think and the 2014 EP compilation, A Sea of Split Peas, with the ferocity of a windstorm.
For all of that, Barnett doesn’t seem to have let all the hosannas affect her too much. She appeared gratified by the sold-out crowd’s enthusiastic response and said the Dallas show might be her favorite on the tour so far. When informed that The Rolling Stones were also in town Saturday night, playing at AT&T Stadium, she thanked everyone for coming to see her instead.
It’s doubtful many at Club Dada thought they made the wrong choice.
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571