Courtney Barnett at Summer Series at Somerset House . Courtesy Somerset House (5).JPG

By Adam Simcox

“I feel like the Queen should be looking down from up there or something!”        

Courtney Barnett slopes on stage with an air of almost embarrassed hesitation, as if the rarefied environs don’t as much intimidate as disarm her.  Her wildly successful tour of debut album 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' has taken her several times round the globe but few venues will have matched Somerset House on a (mercifully dry,) balmy London summers night.  You worry that the setting will be too dignified, too sedate.

And then the pneumatic drums of ‘Dead Fox’ pound out, (Barnett’s buzz saw guitar not far behind it,) and you relax. These songs could be played at the Queen’s funeral and they’d get the mourners manically pogoing.

She’s a strange one, Courtney Barnett, or at least a refreshing one.  No hints of airs or graces, (and certainly no air-brushing,) what you see with her is what you get.  Dressed all in black, with crude animation playing behind her and the band, unkempt hair whipped backwards and forwards as she attacks her guitar with a Cobain-like fury, you get the impression that the Nirvana front man would have liked her.

She certainly likes him; the songs she delivers to the respectful but mostly enraptured crowd are a fascinating hybrid of Nirvana and the Beatles, from the grunge drenched Pedestrian at Best to recent single Elevator Operator (heavier here than on record, like much of the set).  The lyrics, consistently clever and funny, open up a piece of her soul to us, but Barnett remembers that such lessons are best imbibed when dancing. 

On nights such at this -  an environment both stately and beautiful, the sun setting on three thousand punters all there for you – Melbourne, and the bar job she had when recording her latest long player must seem like a long way ago and a lifetime away.

As she finishes her set with a deliciously scuzzed up beach-surf version of Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party, Barnett stands as the slacker queen-in-waiting, ruler of all that she surveys.