Real Estate, Sebright Arms, London
Monday 27 February 2012
Tonight; a low-ceilinged, Lilliputian basement in a pub off Hackney Road. Tomorrow night; a high-ceilinged, velvet-clad hyper-venue in Mornington Crescent with a capacity nearing 2,500.
For Brooklyn by way of New Jersey band Real Estate – who signed to Domino last year – it’s a pretty strange juxtaposition, but one which they’ll no doubt tackle with ease.
The Garden State ensemble – who arguably released one of the autumnal sleep-killers of 2011 in sophomore album ‘Days’ – have crossed The Atlantic for a slew of regional shows, playing the choicest of intimate city sweat boxes. They’re off to do their effortlessly lackadaisical thing at KOKO supporting pal Kurt Vile, but not before cramming a mixed bag of ardent fans and industry honchos into this 150 capacity venue.
And as testament to their staggering éclat, it’s one-in, one-out – even for ticket holders. But widespread panic is accordingly disguised behind oversized specs and in shoulder shrugging homage to the ice-cool preserve of these suburban indie boys done good, nobody cracks.
It’s the perennial guitar line of ‘Fake Blues’ – the band’s sun-blanched jewel in the crown of 2009’s self-titled full-length debut – which sets the slow chugging wheels in motion for a seamless set lovingly pulled along by its hook laden tether. Taken from their current LP, ‘Municipality’ sees a carefree shuffle towards the present, a sonic vignette of kicking-your-heels-against-the-curb restlessness – before frontman Martin Courtney takes it ‘Easy’ and pithily compacts nostalgia into 3 ½ minutes. “Around in the fields we grow/Floating on an inner tube in the sun,” may have little relation to a chilly winter’s night in East London but with some willing suspension of disbelief and a little bit of artistic license, it’s a welcome reverie.
Spectrals’ man Louis Jones brings another guitar into the fold and the misty-eyed dream continues on its verdant path. Casually treading water on pastoral ‘Green Aisles’, ripples of effects bathe ‘Out of Tune’ in an understated glow -- where Alex Bleeker’s ebullient bassline is given a good airing – and ‘Wonder Years’ aligns Courtney’s deepened vocal with Art Garfunkel or Arthur Russell. Then the widescreen instrumental of ‘Kinder Blumen’ pans out and the ceiling almost sags to ground level.
Another staple from their debut LP, ‘Suburban Dogs’ slow-burns the crowd into a collective mesmerism and as Jones exits stage left, Courtney speaks up for one of the first times tonight, joshing “that was special” and giving thanks to show promoter Chris Tipton from Upset The Rhythm.
The familiar lilt of ‘Days’’ current, radio-bothering lead track ‘It’s Real’ shakes everyone awake and a crowd sing-a-long ensues, although it’s more of a modest coo, naturally. Semi-old meets new as ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ and ‘Beach Comber’ look back with fondness on 2009, and shiny new song ‘In My Car’ is taken out for its maiden spin on UK soil.
A change in the seasons and we end up in a wintery clime for well placed wig-out ‘Snow Days’; a fittingly psychedelic end to a set carried along by melody but steeped in the kind of no-frills proggy verve which keeps you watching. And they make it all look so damn easy.
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