It’s an old adage, the show must go on… no matter what happens to the performer, and it seems to be what Barns Courtney had in mind last night for his scheduled performance inside the upscale mall The Grove. They had installed a real hospital bed in the middle of the stage, and, if I first thought it could be a bizarre and for-the-joke mise-en-scene, it certainly wasn’t one, the 26-year musician arrived on stage with crutches and soon lied in bed with his guitar to perform some of his greatest hits in front of a young crowd which wasn’t even really surprised by his uncurbed enthusiasm!
There’s no shortage of energy during a Barns Courtney’s show and the exuberant performer did a stage dive at Summerfest in Milwaukee a few days ago, and he broke his foot while landing on concrete. But this didn’t stop him a bit, a few days ago, he announced to his fans on social media that he will be playing at the Grove despite the accident… ‘Sooo I definitely definitively broke my foot! Shattered the third metatarsal and fractured all the rest! Here’s what happened after I fought the good fight with gravity…and lost!’ he wrote on his Facebook page.
I had already seen him at the El Rey a few months ago and was impressed by the amount of energy and assurance this young guy can display on stage, his music is a mix of rootsy blues rock with some infectious stomp and raucous sing-along choruses. Some of the songs, like ‘Fire’ or ‘Glitter and Gold’ sound as if they had drawn their inspiration from old blues gospel hymns, and there’s even a bit of that Black Keys’ gentrified blues in his music, while the poppy melodies are so catchy, that everything often ends into a collective sing-along.
Last night, Barns Courtney spent most of his set lying on a hospital bed on wheels, wearing a hospital gown but rocking his ass off, sweating as if he was actually jumping on stage, while being pushed around by a pretty nurse named Kimberley. ‘This is the first time I get one of these crazy ideas and actually get away with it’, he told us after a few songs… why not sitting on a chair? Or on a throne as Dave Grohl did when he broke his leg! But Barns Courtney had even more in store, and like an unstoppable machine, he asked for his crutches a few times, and stood up, jumping on one foot, throwing away the crutches and falling down, while singing some of his most energizing numbers.
During his calmer songs — but nothing stay very calm for very long with Barns — his raw and passionate vocals sounded a bit like Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, while the hooky choruses constantly asked for the participation of the crowd, which was not begged very long to sing and clap along. However, despite the exuberance and the overblown performance, Courtney is still in disbelieve of his current success, ‘I see this tune on commercials, and it blows my mind’, he said before singing ‘Glitter & Gold’.
After 2 months on the road, Courtney seemed to have the time of his life despite his broken foot, it was the ‘best show of the tour’, he told us, while his new single, ‘Golden Dandelions’, sounded as familiar-at-the-first-listening than any of his previous songs with his usual over the top dose of enthusiasm… didn’t he feel any pain? There’s no way this guy was sedated by painkillers, he was too animated, he was restlessly jolting on his bed and head banging to the point to break a sweat at each song,… I believe the fire of music (like the title of his last song) is the only painkiller he had swallowed.
Synth pop Ariana and the Rose was opening with frontgirl Ariana DiLorenzo doing a lot of expressive arm gestures while lending her powerhouse to some synth-dance songs. She could go from screams to ethereal high pitched vocals with such a dynamic stage presence that the Robyn-meets-Kate-Bush comparison advanced by Billboard magazine didn’t seem out of place to me. And why not a bit of Lady Gaga in the mix too? Although her only eccentricities seemed to be the glitter in her face and the purple in her hair. When I also had Lykke Li in mind, she did a surprising cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’, just after asking a favor to the organizers. As there was a large pit reserved for VIPs due to their CITI card memberships (the sponsor of the free concert series), she asked the security to let everyone invade the pit, so thank you Ariana for this front row ticket!
Never Let You Down
Glitter & Gold
I Think I’d Rather Die
Attraction of Youth