When I first heard of this collaboration, like a lot of music freaks, I let my jaw drop and then let a smile come over my face. Having these two together put my expectations through the roof. Then the album came out last month on an absolutely packed Friday of releases that include St. Vincent, Beck, and Robert Plant, and my first listen through of the album left me wanting more. I was confused as I was ready for it and wanted to be blown away by it, but it just didn’t hit me like I wanted it to. Then a friend said this is a slow-burn album and will grow on you. No less than two weeks later and I couldn’t stop spinning it. I don’t know why it took two weeks for this album to connect, but I was happy it did as I couldn’t wait for the live show between these two.
I was supposed to be at The Beacon Theatre the week before, but as I walked in to Loew’s Theatre in Jersey City I realized that I lucked into the better theatre to see this show. The packed audience were music lovers and gave all of their adoration to not only Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, the Sea Lice Band, but also opener Jen Cloher. Her short acoustic set was filled with humorous stories between songs and lyrics that brought every emotion to the table. Jen joked about being alone while Courtney was on tour the last couple of years and writing some revenge songs, but assured us that Courtney probably has her own, all done with a wink of course.
“David Bowie Eyes” was dedicated to the late Jim Morrison, whom she used to love growing up until a friend in school said he wasn’t cool, and Patti Smith, who said at a concert she saw that of course Jim Morrison and The Doors were cool. “Strong Woman” was preceded by Jen telling the crowd about being amazing at Galaga while pretending to be a boy, Jon, when she was growing up. If she hadn’t pretended to be a boy, she wouldn’t have been able to play as it was in a café that only boys hung out in. The whole thing came to halt one day when her mother called her out on it in front of everyone and the embarrassment she felt. Being so out in the open about her life won the crowd over and led to a standing ovation at the end of the set.
After some technical delays, Courtney, Kurt, and the Sea Lice Band came out and dug right into the music without wasting any time. During the show Courtney and Kurt would give glances at one another and the biggest smile would erupt from their faces. I was thinking about the recording of the album as I watched them play the 15-song show and it really was just an excuse for two friends to hang out and have fun. Some of the songs are super silly, while others are conversations between the two musicians, and I cannot believe it took me two weeks to dig the album as I should have in the beginning.
They played five songs off the record, including singles “Over Everything” and “Continental Breakfast,” but it was the set ender “Untogether.” The song is a cover of Belly, but the way Kurt and Courtney play this tune is just wonderful. The song is about failed relationships, but this duo is anything but a failure. The entire show felt like it was from the heart and when songs from their respective catalogues was covered, the other one played along and helped with the choruses.
The encore started with just Kurt and Courtney on the stage together playing Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues.” They honestly could have played this way the entire show and the audience would have been happy, but the backing band of Rob Laakso, Stella Mozgawa, and Katie Harkin were tremendous. They were essential to bringing the songs perfectly from the record to a live audience. The focus of course was on the guitar work of the duo, but this band is nothing to gloss over. The show ended with Kurt’s “Pretty Pimpin” followed by Courtney’s “Avant Gardener.” The tour is closing in a few days out in Texas, but hopefully these two will continue to work together in the future.
Article: Bryan Lasky