January ended with a bang at Johnny Brenda’s Wednesday night, when Jen Cloher rocked the socks off of a sold-out crowd. Playing alongside her wife, Courtney Barnett, the Australian singer-songwriter showcased a brilliant lyrical sensibility and guitar skills of the highest order. Here are photos and a handful of standout moments from the night.
1. Cloher and the essence of rock
Cloher knows how to strip down rock and roll to its essential, bare-bones elements. The sweet chords and straightforward lyrics of songs like “Analysis Paralysis” have a rhythm that is pitch perfect for a contemplative Sunday afternoon drive.
2. The love birds are sublime together
The four piece that is Cloher and company is exceptionally strong, but the music enters another dimension when Cloher and Barnett are in-sync. It’s something to see when Barnett gets lost in guitar bliss, while Cloher, at center stage, goes off on her own electric-string workshop. This was especially prominent on their performance of “Regional Echo.”
3. Cloher has such a powerful, dynamic voice
Cloher possesses a singing range that moves from a near whisper to a poetic speaking tone reminiscent of Patti Smith. Her vocal highlight of the night happened when she dropped the guitar for a revealing behind-the-mic performance of “Great Australian Bite.” The song, an ode to the musicians of her homeland, reaches near theatrical heights during the chorus—a perfect complement to the shadows of the Johnny Brenda’s stage.
4. Mia Dyson put on a fantastic opening set
The show began with the bluesy rock of Mia Dyson. Brilliant guitar work and catchy lyrics entranced the Philadelphia crowd. Her set closer, “Being Scared,” was the best moment among a brilliant showcase by this Australian artist. I won’t be surprised if she starts headlining soon.