With Barns Courtney’s new album, 404, set to be released on September 6th, Minneapolis was the privileged host for opening night of the 404 Tour. The Fine Line was as full as I’ve seen it, and about two-thirds women. If you wanted a spot near the stage you had better have arrived right when doors opened for this show featuring two popular British artists.
The Hunna took the stage first with singer Ryan Potter wearing a Guns ‘N’ Roses “It’s So Easy” t-shirt. The rest of this British four-piece is Dan Dorney on guitar, Junate Angin on bass, and Jack Metcalfe on drums. Those unfamiliar with The Hunna were likely fooled by the slow and quiet opening of “We Could Be”, before it kicked into gear with pounding drums and rock-show volume. After “Fever”, fans helped sing the slower, “Babe, Can I Call?” Potter said, ‘”That was f—ing beautiful. Thank you. First night on tour, and we are so excited to be back here. We are actually big Timberwolves fans. We went to our first game the last time we were here.” He continued, “Next is a new song. And it’s good that we are over here in the US, because we felt the need to rip our old record label after finding out they were ripping us off and screwing over our friends too. We helped kill that label.” This was the lead in to their new single, “IGHTF”, which is short for “I get high to forget.” The crowd ate this up as the anger in which it was written fueled this energetic new song. Hopefully, shedding that former label will now allow the band to resume releasing more new music.
Next was “Flickin’ Your Hair”, which is remindful of one of my favorite current British bands, Catfish and the Bottlemen, although my daughter disagrees. Many in the audience sang the echoing, “It’s in the way you’re… It’s in the way you’re,” part. For this song and many others, Potter showed great energy, even standing atop the drum set. For “YDWIWM”, which stands for “You don’t want it with me,” Potter asked if we were ready to get angry and to repeat after him, “We’re so loud, can’t turn us down.” He demanded that we sing it louder and louder, and angrier and angrier. To let it all go and let it all out. As the crowd complied the band finished the song once again in thrashing style.
Potter told us that the next song was the first song written as The Hunna, and anywhere they go around the world people know this song. He asked us to sing along to “She’s Casual”, which starts slowly quietly and builds. Those singing loudly along with Potter proved the song is also well-known in Minneapolis. “Let’s see if you know this,” he then asked. The answer was a resounding YES to “Bonfire”, with the crowd singing louder than the singer to “and we blew up like a bonfire, fire, fire” chorus of this hit song. Potter promised they would be back next year, and put down his guitar for the final song before jumping out into the crowd for a wild and crazy finish with the energetic “What You Waiting For”. As Barns Courtney would tell us later, “How about The Hunna? It’s not easy being an opening act. I’ve done it many, many times. I don’t remember ever seeing an opening band rock the crowd like The Hunna did tonight.” Agreed.
We Could Be / Fever / Babe, Can I Call? / IGHTF / Flickin’ Your Hair / YDWIWM / She’s Casual / Bonfire / What You Waiting For.
While the opening band impressed, there was no question who most of the crowd was really here to see tonight. A female-tilted crowd packed the area near the stage for an opportunity to catch the young British singer with the unusual name, Barns Courtney. Tonight marked the start of his North American tour, just days before the release of his highly anticipated new album. The curly, dark-haired singer took the stage, shirtless under his red-leather 404 jacket. He strutted around the stage from the start with pouting lips and many mannerisms remindful of Mick Jagger. He twirled the microphone by the cord and then clenched the cord between his teeth to lead fast clapping to get the crowd involved from the start. “Fun Never Ends”, a new song from his upcoming album, was a fitting opening song as his devoted fans hoped that was the case tonight. Most Minnesota kids returned to school on this day following Labor Day, and many of their mothers appeared to be out in force celebrating the occasion.
The next song, “London Girls”, was also a new song and featured some repeating ballet dancer clips on the video screen behind the band. Then Courtney jumped back to his popular debut album, The Attractions of Youth, to play four consecutive songs from his earlier work. Fans were excited to sing along to “Hands” with its recognizable “Woohoo Woohoo” and Barns pulled out a harmonica in the middle of the song. “Hobo Rocket”, “Never Let You Down”, and “Champion” were the other three.
Next, the young singer slowed things down to play the unreleased “Hard to Be Alone” as an acoustic solo. As the band returned to the stage, he said tonight was a special night. Not only because it was the start of their tour, but was the guitarist’s birthday. Of course, “Happy Birthday” was in order, and the birthday boy was presented with a lighted birthday cake. Birthday party transitioned back to concert party with the hard-nosed “Hellfire” and then Courtney’s very popular “Glitter & Gold” which many women sang with full gusto, louder and louder. Two singles already released from 404 were next and already well-known by thirsty fans. “Hollow” was first, then “You and I” got the ladies dancing and received the loudest applause of the night.
I didn’t realize how popular “Golden Dandelions” was until seeing fans sing along so loudly and celebrate it. Courtney preceded the song by asking fans, “When I say jump, what do you do? Jump! Jump.” And after the song, he continued to play with the crowd, raising his hand to ask for more noise, then dropping it to demand silence. Noise, then silence. Noise, silence. My favorite Barns Courtney song, “Kicks”, was next up in this finishing flurry of popular songs. The energetic performer did it up right, and made a point to reach out and touch as many fans as he could before falling to the stage in dramatic fashion during its wild finish. After getting fans to echo his vocalizations, he thanked us and said this would be their last song of the night (not exactly, but you know the routine).
After starting out his big hit, “Fire”, on stage, he jumped down into the audience and had everyone get down low on the ground then spring up (like The Struts do). He stayed lost in the crowd for some time, only visible by the microphone cord lifeline held by his stagehand, then finally found his way back on stage. After just a momentary exit, the rising artist returned and exclaimed, “Holy f…, Minneapolis. I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much for giving me the best job in the world!” Saving the best for last, the long-popular radio hit,”99″, was the lone encore number that extended this tour kickoff party just slightly longer. But the fun would have to end on this school night at the Fine Line. Make sure to grab Barns Courtney’s new album, 404. You will find “99” on the new album along with many of the new songs played tonight.
Fun Never Ends / London Girls / Hands / Hobo Rocket / Never Let You Down / Champion / Hard to be Alone / Hellfire / Glitter & Gold / Hollow / You and I / Golden Dandelions / Kicks / Fire. Encore: “99”.