The Sydney Opera House is an international relic. It not only represents an amazing architectural feat of expressionist design, but the country of Australia’s rich artistic history as well.
Yet Courtney Barnett, one of Australia’s most beloved musicians, barely batted an eye upon her visit in October of 2018.
Her time at the Opera House was brief – just a quick pit stop to play the single “Sunday Roast” off her 2018 album Tell Me How You Really Feel. As she set up for soundcheck, her wandering mind immediately made its amiable presence be known. She found a few tourists peaking through the window to which she chuckled and gregariously joked “Oh look, there’s an audience!” She then began testing her voice, thus recognizing the world-class acoustics of the Opera House and letting out the humorously obvious line “Wow, it sounds good in this room, doesn’t it?”
Although Barnett was living many musicians’ lifelong dream by playing an exclusive performance at the Sydney Opera House, it was fascinatingly obvious that her mind was elsewhere. For the moment, she seemed to have mentally transported herself to the setting of “Sunday Roast”: a friend’s living room far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
While most of her 2018 album Tell Me How You Really Feel focuses around the soul-crushing negativity of misogynistic men Barnett has encountered over her lifetime, “Sunday Roast” ends the album on a high note. It’s about Barnett helping her friends through trying times and reassuring them that their best is good enough. The notes are slow, soft, and comforting while her voice is very conversational and matter-of-fact. The song breaks away from her normally loud slacker rock mainstay in order to comfort listeners in the only way she knows how: by genuinely believing in them.
As Barnett smoothly strums through the semi-complicated guitar patterns, she stares longingly off into the distance. Far over the boats, past the trees and through the skyscrapers, her friends are living complicated lives that she would love to help assuage. In many ways, that desire for simplicity is exactly what makes Courtney Barnett so likable. She’s an international rockstar, but she still holds the values of modesty, relaxation, and companionship above all else. She’s connective, understandable, and sincere, and no preeminent venue or external expectations can take that away from her.