Published Jul 12, 2018About 24 hours after the Foo Fighters brought their slickly orchestrated rock'n'roll revue to Ottawa, it took an unassuming 30-year-old from Australia to bring the true spirit of Nirvana to Bluesfest.
Headlining the festival's smallest outdoor stage, Courtney Barnett packed the north end of the picturesque LeBreton Flats for her anticipated Wednesday night performance. Walking onto a setup adorned with flood lamps, LED rigs and Christmas lights, Barnett and her band were greeted with much affection from the pulsating crowd while launching into "Hopefulessness" from this year's Tell Me How You Really Feel. As the set opener approached its noisy apex, Barnett leapt out from behind her microphone to thrash around the stage, instantaneously ramping up the energy of the evening's performance.
Switching from one of her many vintage Fenders to another vintage Fender, Barnett moved into a well-sequenced trio of songs from her latest release ("City Looks Pretty", "Charity" and "Need a Little Time") that showcased her tremendous onstage acumen and musical prowess. Transitioning into some slightly older material, including "Elevator Operator" and "Avant Gardener" — which found the crowd impressively singing along to the songs' wordy verses — Barnett injected even more vitality into her performance, as "Nameless, Faceless" was accompanied by a dizzying light show and "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch" came off even heavier and rawer in a live setting.
Beaming from the audience's between-song chants of "Courtney! Courtney!" Barnett announced that she would wrap up her 75-minute performance with a three-song set that included "Kim's Caravan," which found her wildly collapsing to the ground to craft a wall of feedback, the gorgeous "Sunday Roast" and a crowd-pleasing rendition of "Pedestrian at Best." Wishing the audience a "nice night" and a "nice life" in a very Courtney way, it became clear that Barnett's unique live show — which often trades in precision for passion and melodrama for sonic sensibilities — was exactly what this year's Bluesfest was craving.