Barns Courtney swaggered on stage parting the knee level red mist, moving forward to plant his leg, momentarily, on the front of the stage whilst shouting tunefully, “XOYO!”. This confident entrance was to be expected of the solo singer-song writer, who has opened gigs for the likes of Carl Barat, Ed Sheeran and Tom Odell. The introduction was short and the artist quickly led his band into their first track, I Think I’d Rather Die.
Courtney was born in Ipswich but moved to Seattle when he was young, returning to England when he was 15. The trans-Atlantic influence on his music is obvious: at times, through heavy pulsing drums, one can hear the American influence of the White Stripes, at others, the driving pop chorus that is heard in the English blues/folk pop of Ed Sheeran or Jake Bugg. This was most noticeable with songs Hands and Fire, which warmed the crowd up and got them moving, helped massively by the great voice that Courtney possesses – he can belt it out when needed whilst maintaining a bluesy tone.
The singer was brimming with excited energy; after the first number he gulped down half a bottle of water and then spat it out like a fountain toward the ceiling, looking toward the crowd and shouting, “I’m feeling the love tonight”. He maintained this audience interaction throughout the gig and the concertgoers responded: at times he got them to sing along to the choruses, at the end he got everyone to crouch low as he brought the tempo down. Courtney clearly was made to be a frontman and has the bravado to go with the role.
The music accompanying the artist’s live performance ultimately let the experience down. There was little diversity between the tracks. The tempo of each song was predictable, often one number blending into the last, starting with a slow verse and moving into a fast chorus. The choruses themselves tended to be mainly made up of “Ooo ooo oo”s or “Woo woo woo”s, which only added to the sense that Courtney has found a sound and stuck very much to it.
Clearly, however, music taste is subjective, and the audience at XOYO seemed to respond in a positive way to Courtney’s set. The singer-songwriter is only just releasing his first solo EP so there is still time to bring some variety to his back catalogue.