Live Review: Courtney Barnett, Cloud Control, Wil Wagner

23 January 2016 | 10:00 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"'I fucking love her. She's so fucking cool,' - a chick wandering up the aisle states aloud what we're all thinking."

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Wearing a Pulp T-shirt, Wil Wagner closes with a moving song about Laika (the first dog in space), which makes us wish we'd arrived earlier. He hands the setlist to a front-row fan before crouching down to sign another's vinyl. 

There's a white theme running through Cloud Control's attire. Song two, This Is What I Said (the "Ya-ya-ya-ya" one), thaws us out like a sudden burst of sunshine. Frontman Alister Wright has the setlist written on his cup, he tells us. The complex four-part vocals in Gold Canary are impressive as is this outstanding song itself. They've lost a member in bassist Jeremy Kelshaw, but a wistful, piano-driven newie that references Carnaby Street proves they've got plenty left in the songwriting tank and heads start bopping. Wright's spontaneous jam during Promises adds vibrance. A coupla ladies in the front row are on their feet dancing during irresistible track There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight, which also receives the largest cheer within their set. Keyboardist Heidi Lenffer clocks the dancers' moves and smiles in appreciation. At set's close, a fan strolls forward to claim Wright's setlist/cup and he sculls its contents before handing it over. 

As soon as the lights dim after interval, the crowd cheers to welcome Courtney Barnett and co to the stage. Barnett stands stage right, while her bassist Bones Sloane, who resembles Cousin Itt when his long hair completely covers his face, takes the left. In the centre, is Dave Mudie with his extremely minimal drum kit; basically two toms, a coupla cymbals and a bass drum. He drums with enviable swing. It's probably the constant gigging, but this trio makes everything look so effortless. Visuals on the back screen appear before us Etch A Sketch-style, sometimes incorporating photographs. 

There's some mad strobes during the Small Poppies freak-out section and Barnett's guitar work here slays. Barnett's diction throughout An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York) perfectly spotlights her wonderfully descriptive lyricism. The band noticeably get a kick out of performing new track Three Packs A Day; Barnett and Sloane directing their gazes toward frets during trickier sections. After this song Barnett confesses it's the first time they've ever performed it live. She asks if we're "comfy" in our seats. That meandering guitar line during Boxing Day Blues (Revisited) somehow manages to be simultaneously jaunty and melancholy. And it's all about the unexpected twists in Barnett's lyrical phrases (eg. "You sound so thin"). "We're gonna play a dance song now," is how Barnett introduces Debbie Downer and, although we chuckle, this song coaxes people to their feet (security is always quick to usher those who run down the aisles back to their seats, however). Sloane's BVs during Kim's Caravan - when he sustains a single note, gradually increasing the volume - add intensity. Barnett's husky, guttural vocal quality is used to great effect. Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party and Pedestrian At Best close out the main set and the threesome vacate, leaving us with duelling feedback.

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Returning to the stage, Barnett expresses her sincere thanks and says it's been "fun". They close with History Eraser. Then once the house lights come on, Bowie's Heroes aurally ushers us out. "I fucking love her. She's so fucking cool," — a chick wandering up the aisle states aloud what we're all thinking. And a massive merch queue post-gig is always an awesome sign.