Courtney Barnett w/The National @ Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn in Indianapolis, IN
Review & photography by Michael Cottone
It was a hot, muggy day in downtown Indianapolis, where a nearly sold-out crowd gathered at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park for The National and Courtney Barnett. As the sun began to set, it turned into the perfect night for a summer concert. The National – a Cincinnati based group with nearly 20 years of experience – is in the midst of their tour for their newest album I Am Easy to Find. However, Indianapolis, unfortunately, marked the end of Courtney Barnett’s run on the tour. Even though The National and Courtney play music of different rock and roll varieties, the night made for some eclectic and energetic performances that pleased all attendees.
Courtney Barnett started the night off taking the stage around 7:30pm. Just hours before opening up the concert, she did a brief acoustic set at Indy CD & Vinyl, one of Indianapolis’ most renowned record stores. During her 45-minute set at the Lawn (which is far too short for an artist as entertaining as Courtney), she played a wide variety of her discography, ranging from her newest album Tell Me How You Really Feel, her solo debut Sometimes I Sit.., as well as a few separate singles such as “Everybody Here Hates You” and “Small Talk”. Throughout her performance, Courtney engaged the crowd by moving around the stage, jerking her guitar as she played numerous improvised solos. My personal favorite was when she let it rip on her interlude track “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.” The track’s hectic and brutally honest tone – reminiscent of Patti Smith – brought the crowd to life before she transitioned into a more self-reflective song in “Small Poppies.”
The National’s mixture of art rock and indie rock sounds have made them one of the most distinct bands in recent decades. Their newest album was actually accompanied by a short film directed by Oscar-nominated director Mike Mills. Their distinctiveness was evident at the Lawn during their performance. As the band took the stage, lead singer Matt Berninger, beer in hand, gave the crowd a wave and another wave to the photographers in the photo pit. The band played an extensive setlist, about 26 songs, playing their newest album in bulk as well as different picks from their vast discography that consists of nine studio albums.
The band normally consists of five members, but they played as a nine-piece live band, adding additional percussion to their sound. Of the nine, they were joined by Zoe Randall as a special guest to fill in for female vocals. For a band that doesn’t have the most riveting, high-octane music, The National can captivate the audience in large part due to Matt’s engaging style of singing combined with the use of compelling onstage visuals. The band closed the night out by playing their song “American Mary” – a fan favorite from their first studio album – for the first time on the current tour.
You can stream The National’s new album I Am Easy to Find here and purchase tickets for the remainder of their tour here. You can stream Courtney Barnett’s newest record Tell Me How You Really Feel here.