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Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, with Jen Cloher at The Anthem

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile are so radically different from one another onstage, it’s a wonder they got into the studio together for their collaboration, Lotta Sea Lice. The former is the epitome of constant motion, fidgeting and rocking, while the latter barely moves, other than the rapidity of his fingers.

The Anthem‘s crowd on November 7 seemed to want the version of Barnett who gained international fame with her 2015 release, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Occasionally, they were treated to such, as the Australian reeled off a few tunes from the famed record; but for the most part, this music was slower and more subdued.

That’s the effect Kurt Vile has brought to this union. The former lead guitarist for The War on Drugs draws his powers from his ability to vacillate between indie rock and indie folk. It’s not uncommon for him to attach a Southern twang to certain words; in fact, it seems that he extracts joy from this, reminiscent of Metallica’s James Hetfield finding reasons to randomly growl, “Yeah.”

The Anthem obviously prepared for the more folk-esque tunes, as the newly minted venue at The Wharf showed off its look for seated shows. Another photographer told me about a previous show, Trombone Shorty, which featured people literally losing their minds; not this time.

Barnett and Vile didn’t provide that setting, and they weren’t trying to. This was a different kind of show, forcing you to really dig into the lyrics and enact the title of Barnett’s very famous previous album.

Photos and review: Trent Johnson