Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald joined the assembled throng at O2 Academy in keen anticipation of the return of Antipodean wonder Courtney Barnett, and her band of brothers.
By the time Zuzu took to the O2 Academy stage on Tuesday night, the room was already beginning to fill up with excited revellers, keen to get out of the cold, and into the raw energy and super-strength rockout of Courtney Barnett.
Zuzu is a tight as tight can be, punchy power pop promise, who delivers a confident and more than competent set of strong tunes, unstinting and uncompromising in their catchiness. Spiky, jaunty and rythmic, this is a band, and a singer, more than comfortable in their skin, and songs like Get Off prove their absolute worth. Definitely one to watch, and a firm EVOL favourite.
Next up came tour support, and good friends of Barnett, Melbourne’s Big Scary. Despite having a good solid following of several years’ standing back home, their set of lofty stripped down meanderings felt a little like sitting in on a rehearsal where one of the players had bought a new synth and was merely toying round with it, checking its possibilities. With more cheesy 80s references than a Rewind Festival, the songs here lacked any discernible structure, apart from in the drumming. The drummer has just the one rhythm to offer, and she wasn’t scared to use it. On every song. Disappointing, really, given that they were there at the behest of someone like Courtney Barnett. Maybe something was up. Just having a bad night maybe, but the mark remained decidedly un-hit.
Barnett‘s return to a Liverpool stage following the storming sonic assault that was her 2014 Sound City show at The Zanzibar, was much anticipated, and much discussed. And she didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of it all is its strength. Great songs, big guitar sounds, and the best touring rhythm section known to man. Easy. She launched straight into the stomping and glorious Elevator Operator, and we were off. When these particular three people do their jobs so well, in such a bewildering and exciting way, it is difficult not to be impressed. Delivery is everything, and with Barnett‘s writing, the host of interesting characters and themes of this body of work come to life with urgency and real meaning.
As the set builds and weaves its way, over the top of Dave Mudie and Bones Sloane‘s rhythmic hammering, Barnett‘s playing sees her cajole and tease every last deafening howl from her guitar. She’s a committed Fender-botherer, and the guitar seems to work as hard as the rest of the band, twisting and screaming its part all the way through. Other highlights from the album Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit are also present here.
From winners like Aqua Profunda and An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleeping In New York) to the singalong, arms aloft downright and dreamy prettiness of Depreston and the darker Small Poppies, Barnett‘s lyrical skills are as intriguing as they are insightful, lending a slanted, jaunty and self deprecating outlook to each and every subject. Despite much of the audience suffering from a bad case of Tuesdaynightitis, which seemed to prevent them engaging fully in the vibe of the evening, the band’s commitment was unrelenting and unwavering.
The ante got upped at every turn, culminating in a raw and guttural version of Pedestrian At Best and the west coast magnificence of Debbie Downer, which delivered such thrills, such energy, that even the most ‘probably-shouldn’t-on-a-school-night’ audience member couldn’t help but rock out.
A storming, triumphant and energy filled set. Again. From a storming writer and performer, and her storming band, and yet another classic EVOL night to remember.
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Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.