Courtney Barnett brought her Tell Me How You Really Feel tour to the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver on October 9th.
In front of an excited crow the set kicked off with “Hopefulness,” under a single red light. Slow and brooding, Barnett instructed the audience to, “take your broken heart and turn it into art.” An inspiring start to the show, the song built into a full rock breakdown, after which Barnett was already swinging around her guitar and pacing the stage. Her intentions were crystal clear: this was going to be a no holds bar rock show.
Barnett spoke to the crowd very little beyond the odd “thank you,” but her music truly spoke for itself, with strong commentary on feminism, and societal confines forming clear thematic links through the carefully crafted setlist. Feminist undertones are perhaps more visible on Barnett’s latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, than others, and they came across loud and clear last night on songs like “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch,” “Nameless, Faceless,” and a new country-inspired tune, “Small Talk,” where she declares, “I got better things to do than shave my legs, my pits.”
Even on her previous efforts, which can often seem lyrically straightforward, inside those innocent Trojan horses, you will find Barnett’s discomfort with the boxes society has put women in. On tracks like “Depreston” she contemplates the pointlessness of suburban life and homeownership. It was a message that rang loud and clear to the people of Vancouver who happily sang along to the refrain, “if you’ve got a spare half a million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding.”
And as these themes became apparent throughout the set, the songs became more visceral, more urgent, more vital. Barnett and her bandmates built the force of the music until even the notoriously tame crowds of Vancouver were moshing and crowd surfing through to the last grunge inspired riffs of "History Eraser." After a three-song encore Barnett left us feeling hopeful; hopeful that strong female musicians can still be successful; hopeful that rock isn’t dead, and perhaps least importantly, hopeful that Vancouverites still know how to have fun.
Image credit: Jennifer Buchanan