5th June | O2 Academy
Photos: Laure Noverraz
“No, let’s not play that one, we’ll only eff it up,” said guitarist to drummer.
“So…this one?” bassist started playing a bouncy Belle & Sebastian riff, and Loose Tooth launched into another song. After a slightly wobbly start, Loose Tooth had churned out five scorchers in a row, with guitarist, drummer (whose kit was at the front of the stage), and bassist trading the roles of lead and backing vocals. Though their fuzzy-Stone-Roses sound was consistent, the three vocalists were so different in style, (think Ari Up, Kate Bush, Sufjan Stevens) and so good that their set never felt repetitive.
This felt secondary to what had really won the crowd over. Loose Tooth have an endearing humour and atmosphere that you can’t help but feel a part of. First there’s their stage chat: “It’s not that we’re poor…well we are a bit poor…we’re passing a collection hat around at the end,” they told the packed-out O2 Academy. Then there’s the way the two female voices blend together like sisters, or how they tease their soft-voiced bassist about his new girlfriend’s parents like he’s their little brother.
And while their constant jokes and the occasional average song (amongst heaps of hits, mind) did have the hallmarks of a band that were still finding their feet, they warmed the crowd. These nerves may have come down to a need for approval that Barnett’s other opening acts this tour – Palehound, Big Thief – have already attained. But if the “Yassss queen” from the crowd or the drummer’s tongue-in-cheek comment, “It’s like we’ve made heaps of friends” are anything to go by, they’ll probably find it sooner or later.
Courtney Barnett was greeted with rapturous cheers before she’d even taken to the stage. She cuts an introverted figure, hiding in her hair for the solos or looking at her feet as she sings, but instead of starting with crowd-favourites, Barnett began by performing the entirety of her new album – Tell Me How You Really Feel. It was proof that volume does not equal confidence, and between her watertight band and the bright red stage lights, echoing the washed out red on her album cover, there was a sense that Barnett had meticulously organised her crowd’s experience.
Her stage chat couldn’t have been more different from that of Loose Tooth, with Barnett introducing songs like the words were racing each other out of her mouth (“thissongiscalledNamelessFaceless”). But her trust that her crowd wouldn’t resent her delaying playing old classics from her 2015 album, that brought a Grammy nomination and the Australian Music Prize, was rewarded. If you’d closed your eyes that night, you’d have heard a choir of men, of varying ages, singing along to Barnett’s new songs about street harassment in an acquired Australian accent.
But as she methodically took us through her impressive back catalogue, in careful chronological order, things kicked up a notch. The whole crowd, it seemed, were yelling along the words to her upbeat hits, and one security guard was gazing at her on the verge of tears during a particularly poignant rendition of ‘Depreston.’ She encored with two tracks about mediocrity and limitation singing, “let’s join an Anonymous Club” in one, and “I must admit I’ve made a mess/of what should be a small success,” in the other.
Though her stuttering parting words, “have a good…um…night,” may sound like the words of a promising artist at Loose Tooth’s position in their career, it was clear from the precision in her set that Barnett is a big name worthy of her success.