Hot off the tails of their debut collaboration Whole Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile are on a tour with the same conversational nature that makes their album so approachable. You can see it in the varied, multigenerational audience they drew to the Orpheum last Saturday. As playful on tour as they are together in their recordings, Courtney and Kurt brought their similar but complementary styles together for a truly special set.
Opening for the duo was Jen Cloher, who is not only a seasoned rocker in her own right, but Courtney’s wife. Yes, even Courtney Barnett has her own Courtney Barnett, a fact that became evident in her song “Sensory Memory” about being at home and watching her cat while Courtney was on tour for her critically acclaimed album Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. On her closing track “Strong Woman,” her reflection on being a Catholic schoolgirl but trying to fit in with the boys at the corner store was a really vulnerable story to tell live. That’s what makes Jen Cloher such a special opener given the context: she has the same melancholy tone as Courtney Barnett, but in a way feels a little more personal and less detached.
Courtney and Kurt immediately brought the audience out of The Orpheum’s old and squeaky seats, leaving me wondering why this tour stop was in a sit down venue in the first place. Location aside, the warm, friendly vibes of “Over Everything” warmed the crowd up. Later, “Continental Breakfast” brought stories of the album’s roots in an intercontinental friendship that brought together two musicians as geographically distant as they are sonically close.
While the audience expected to hear some Barnett classics, what Kurt brought to “Avant Gardner” with his backup guitar work was astounding. It’s such a rare treat to hear these two together, even moreso to hear their musical collaboration extend beyond their joint album. This special occasion certainly wasn’t lost on the night’s sold-out crowd.