By Grant Golden
February 2, 2022
Though it was a cold night in Raleigh on Sunday, the air inside of the Ritz was electrified with excitement for Courtney Barnett’s return to Oak City. Alongside Philadelphia-based songwriter Shamir, Barnett and crew commanded attention through clever songwriting, engaging crowd work, and a whole lot of energy.
Shamir opened up the evening with his 2021 single “Gay Agenda,” setting the tone for his set full of tracks that outline “radical acceptance” and traverse an array of soundscapes. Shamir’s career started as a dance artist, but he’s gradually shifted toward lo-fi rock with elements of his electronic foundations creeping into the mix. The juxtaposition of these sounds made for a compelling set of tunes, weaving in-and-out of power-pop, post-punk and rock. Several tracks from Shamir’s forthcoming album Heterosexuality made it into the set, but crowd members perked up for tracks like “Tears Fall in Euphoria.” Unfortunately, the set was abruptly cut short and guitars were unplugged– leading to Shamir’s announcement that their time was apparently off.
The abrupt ending made the half-hour set break feel all that much longer, but any frustrations were quelled as Barnett took the stage and opened her set with “Rae Street,” the opening track from her latest album, Things Take Time, Take Time. What followed was a 75-minute career-spanning set highlighting some of Barnett’s most affecting and energetic songs. Barnett’s lyricism tackles both the most mundane aspects of life and society’s most universal fears and feelings. This wide array of subject matter pairs with Barnett’s blasé style of vocals to make those hard-hitting lines feel like a gut punch.
While Barnett’s set featured a slew of songs from Things Take Time…, longtime fans also got their fill of throwback tunes. Fan favorites like “Avant Gardner” and “Depreston” served as standout tracks from the evening, with “Depreston” closing with a chill-inducing sing-a-long. But for as many lulled quiet moments Barnett has, there’s an equal pull of raucous rock outings that keep fans head-bobbing and swaying along. “Pedestrian at Best” pulled attendees out of their trance and propelled them forward with fuzzed-out guitars and snapping drum beats, with Barnett stepping up like the international rockstar she truly is.
Between songs, Barnett’s affable banter kept the crowd rapt; she pointed out some custom-made masks, remarked on the differences between “hoodies” and “jumpers,” and ran through a list of celebrity birthdays after leading a sing-a-long for her front-of-house tech. She closed out her set with “Write A List of Things To Look Forward To,” before quickly returning to the stage for a two-song encore. “Oh The Night” brought the bustling crowd to hushed tones and “Before You Gotta Go” served as the perfect pick-me-up to end the night. It’s rare to see an act close out completely with their newest songs like Barnett did, but fans didn’t seem to mind.
“Need a Little Time”
“Here’s The Thing”
“Walkin’ on Eggshells”
“Pedestrian at Best”
“If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight”
“Write a List of Things to Look Forward To”
“Oh The Night”
“Before You Gotta Go”