arts

The Best Courtney Barnett Live Performances

To celebrate Vevo’s release of Courtney Barnett’s awesome live performances of Everybody Here Hates You and Small Talk, Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge has picked out 20 of his favourite live performances from the Australian musician.


20) Courtney Barnett, Jen Cloher, Adalita and Gareth Liddiard perform My Generation

Barnett appears to be possessed by the rock gods as she takes hold of a drum stick and crumbles to the floor while performing on stage at a Patti Smith tribute show. Try watching this without a smile.

19) Splendour In The Grass – Courtney Barnett covers Yellow Taxi

It might not be the best video quality, but Barnett’s cover of this Joni Mitchell classic is still simply captivating.

18) Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett perform Numbers

Open challenge: Find a duet as tender, authentic and sweet as this one. (Also, check out Barnett and Cloher’s performances of Stone Age Brain and Shady Grove)

17) Tram Sessions – Valerie

This nearly decade old video showcases Barnett’s wordy lyrical brilliance as plays an unsuspecting audience on the tram. Listen to the very end for some Barnett ‘attitude’. (You can also check out this other early video of Barnett.)

16) Being Around acoustic cover

Barnett covers The Lemonheads while wearing a Kurt Cobain t-shirt – what is not to love?

15) RocKwiz – Courtney Barnett & Dave Faulkner perform Everybody Moves

One Australian rock legend teams up with a future one for beautiful harmonies on this cover of Died Pretty’s Everybody Moves.

14) Redondo Beach cover

This cover is part of the same Patti Smith tribute show as My Generation, but Barnett’s blistering performance of Redondo Beach deserves a special mention.

13) NPR Music Tiny Desk

This live performance feels like gathering round for a soothing and poetic story time with Barnett (who is running on just two hours sleep).

12) Austin City Limits – Heavy Heart cover

An emotional delivery of her favourite song. This cover of You Am I’s Heart Heavy is all the more poignant under blue lights.

11) KEXP on Halloween

Even dressed as crazed serial killer Freddy Krueger, Barnett is able to pull off a particuarly beautiful and stripped back rendition of Depreston.

10) RocKwiz – Courtney Barnett & Billy Bragg cover Sunday Morning

Barnett’s excitement radiates off her as she performs a delightful cover of Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning with the legendary Billy Bragg.

9) The Tonight Show – Everything Is Free cover

Even in the context of a huge US chat show, Barnett retains her authenticity with an affecting Gillian Welch cover.

8) Camden – Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party

Barnett promotes the release of Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit with a live performance on the streets of Camden. Lots of quick cuts and different cameras (including cell phone footage and what looks to be super 8) gives a unique feel to this crowd-gathering display.

7) Triple J – Black Skinhead Cover

With the encouragement of Lou Reed, Barnett covers rapper Kayne West for a unique and memorable performance. Listen closely for Barnett’s funny substitute of naughty words (“300 chickens”).

6) Vevo – Small Talk & Everybody Here Hates You

Barnett seems to be having a lot of fun (and it is infectious) as Vevo’s pitch black backdrop gives this a private, relaxed and intimate feel.

5) KEXP – Live at the Triple Door

Judging by the number of hits on this video, Barnett won a number of admirers from KEXP’s concert showcasing her A Sea Of Split Peas album. And what better way to open a set than with the lyrics: ‘I masturbated to the songs you wrote./Resuscitated all of my hopes.’

4) La Blogothèque – Avant Gardener & Out Of The Woodwork

La Blogothèque’s intimate camera style (and a few nice lens flare) capture Barnett performing in public during her first trip to New York City. The video includes a fun fan encounter and Barnett’s excitement over spotting a ‘cute’ squirrel.

3) Live from Piedmont Park

Barnett takes over different parts of this Atlanta park to perform songs from her Tell Me How You Really Feel album. This selection of videos look as good as they sound thanks to brilliant direction from Claire Marie Vogel.

2) Pitchfork Live – Sea Lice by the Seaside

The effortless chemistry between Barnett and Kurt Vile is enhanced by a stunning Malibu location. [I also recommend checking out Barnett and Vile in the short film documentary Friends Of Wonder, as well as Courtney’s performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival.]

1) Pure Pop Records – KICK album cover

Barnett puts her own casually creative spin on the Kick album by INXS. This performance features lots of amusing audience chit chat (“double joke”), a somewhat underwhelming use of paper props, an incredible rendition of The Loved One, and a jaw-dropping use of the harmonica. Yes, this is worth every second of the 53 minutes.


Title photo by Laura June Kirsch

Leave a Reply