Touring her new album Tell Me How You Really Feel, Australian grunger Courtney Barnett takes to the stage at Leeds O2 Academy and, with no pretence of being some big, badass rock star, she lets her music speak for itself as she smashes out waves of fuzzed-up alt-rock.
Bathed in red light, Barnett strolls out onto the stage, plugs in and sets about her business with no urgency. It’s a lazy start to the night but does set expectations that this isn’t going to be too rowdy. Early on in the set though, Barnett announces that she’s going to be playing her recently released new album in its entirety much to the delight of this packed room. At that point Barnett and her bandmates launch into the album and we’re treated to tracks like “Nameless, Faceless” and “Walkin’ On Eggshells”. The tempo picks up for the bruising “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” but, on the whole, despite Barnett occasionally flinging herself around the stage, things don’t get too boisterous.
In his heyday, grunge legend Kurt Cobain cut a quiet, reserved figure onstage and, watching this Aussie rocker plough through her melancholic tunes, you kind of get that same feeling. There are plenty of appreciative nodding heads in the front rows of this packed venue but, watching Barnett head towards the end of this UK tour, you get the impression that, if you’d asked “tell me how you really feel”, you’d have got nothing more than a humble smile and a non-committed shrug.