Live Review: Barns Courtney - The Bullingdon, Oxford 14/11/2018
Accompanying the recent release of the nostalgic, Casio driven song “99”, British Born American blues Rock singer Barns Courtney takes to the road in the UK for the aptly titled 99 Tour. We caught him when he visited The Bullingdon in Oxford; the city of dreaming spires.
The Bullingdon is bursting at the seams and the heat is rising which is a sure fire way of knowing that Barns Courtney is about to hit the stage. From the moment he steps out to the adoring crowd, the energy from both sides of the stage doesn't let up. The opening song, “Hands” is the perfect foot stomping, sing along anthem which sees Barns strutting around the stage like a chivalrous dandy. The new single “99” is an infectious crowd pleaser and a taste of things to come from the new album due next year, but as soon as the song is over, legend in his own right, drummer Rob Ketchum had to replace a drum from his kit. This leads to a bit of improv from the enigmatic frontman in the form of a song that involves apricots, acquired from the back of a cupboard that is out of bounds to children and then covering himself in beef stock before feeling in the mood for love. A feat that he admits he wasn't sure if he was going to pull off, but the crowd loved every bit of it!
The night resumes normal service, for a Barns Courtney gig this involves copious amounts of whisky (courtesy of his opening act Stephanie Cheape), which he necks throughout the set, even offering a drop or two to a guy in the crowd. Barns jumps onto the barrier at one point, leaning over the crowd to get to a fan he spotted who is holding up a home made sign professing her love for the singer, all so he can kiss her hand. Well I did say he was a chivalrous dandy didn't I...?
Midway through the set he breaks out the slower songs “Hard To Be Alone” and “Little Boy”. These songs really focus on what an amazing voice Barns has and had he included “Goodbye John Smith” or “The Attractions Of Youth”, I might have ended up shedding a couple of tears. As with all his songs, they are easy to sing along to and the melodies just flow through you. These may be slower songs but they still leave you feeling euphoric, like a spirit floating above a camp fire.
My personal favourite song of the night is “Golden Dandelions”. If I had to try and sell live music to someone who had never attended a live gig before, this would be the moment where I'd drag them in. With those anthemic drum beats from the outset, the whole room is jumping with there arms stretched to the ceiling. “We're floating fast over traffic lights / Bearing down on blackened skies”. This song really lifts you up above those traffic lights, that feeling of primal euphoria comes back with a vengeance and the whole room is singing his lyrics back to him.
Barns then takes a final sip of Whisky from the bottle before dousing himself in it which results in him removing his alcohol soaked shirt to many cheers from the crowd. What struck me is how manly the crowd is, Barns is a man for all the sexes! Many a straight man in the crowd next to me were verbally swooning at this rock god emerging on stage.
The night is coming to a close and the penultimate song before his most well-known song “Fire”, is the absolute banger “Kicks. A hedonistic full on rock song that sees Barns gather the masses beneath his feet so he can take that leap of faith and crowd surf, something he tries to do at all his live shows. Barns loves to interact with his fans, they are as much a part of the show as he is and every single person in that room tonight is feeling the blood and sweat that he puts into every performance.
Some gigs should come with a health warning as I fear many people are still reeling from post gig blues after tonight, I know for sure that I am one of them and I can't wait for my next relief.
Words and Photography by Rachel Prew