Pushing through the press line just after 8:00 pm, I was enveloped by sound as Courtney Barnett had just taken the stage, completely in control of The Anthem with her hit song, Avant Gardener.
With her opening guitar riff and grunge-rock distortion, Barnett demonstrated a pure sound and mastery of the six strings that locked even the most absent-minded listener into a buckle of musicianship. From every chord to drum beat, the three-person band of Barnett, Bones Sloane (bass) and Dave Mudie (drums) shook the building with ease. Both Mudie and Sloane rocked the most stereotypical rock-band hair-cuts that were fitting for an early GuitarHero release.
Garnett further demonstrated her superiority over the guitar by swinging it around, upside-down, behind her head and really any other way imaginable, never missing a beat. Halfway into her set, Barnett was on her knees practically banging the guitar against the ground, still managing to glue together a mesmerizing sound.
The performance that stood out the most? A piece that I personally have not heard in ages: Depreston. The aura and lyrics presented by Barnett and Co. eloquently conveyed the lurking melancholy of suburban life. Their performance was so fluid and captivating, as the iconic lyrics “If you’ve got a spare half a million // You could knock it down and start rebuildin’” carried a powerful emotive weight. It’s been one of my most played tracks from their work since seeing the show.
Barnett’s set felt so genuine and full that you just can’t help but go back to the artist’s studio recordings. It’s one of the best pleasures of music when you can listen to a recording and channel the genuine and fullness of the sound that you witnessed live.
The headliners, The National, took the stage around 9:00 pm. The group opened with I Am Easy to Find, the first song from their latest album released just last May.
What followed was a satisfying journey of pure emotion and passion that lead singer, Matthew Donald Berninger, and accompanied singer, Kate Stables, flawlessly demonstrate. Berninger sings as if every lyric has him breaking at the core, and his extensive background instrumentals reciprocate the tonality.
The lighting and visuals were a striking feature as the colors ranging from the screens to Berninger’s outfits all meshed beautifully into a stunning display within the sold-out Anthem.
The National tends to cater to a mature audience that was just a few years too young to have gotten extensive U2 exposure. Nevertheless, the performance’s energy was youthful and emphatic so any life-long rock fan would appreciate it.
Courtney Barnett and The National must be one of the most sought-after rock combos on tour right now. They’re some of the most promising sounds of the new era of rock and possess a mastery of their sound that any music fan can appreciate.