Tonight's capacity audience at Whelan's (the gig was moved from The Workman's Club, due to demand) is good news for anyone who was under the impression that guitar music is dead. Support act Jet Setter, flanked by Villagers drummer James Byrne, are an apt choice of support act, channeling the same compacted pop aesthetics of tonight's headline act.
Arriving on stage at 9:35pm to a capacity audience at Whelan's (the gig was moved from The Workman's Club, due to demand), Brooklyn- based New Jersey natives Real Estate ease into their seventeen song set with 'April's Song', a beautiful, instrumental track from 2014's Atlas, which must certainly be one of the year's finest albums.
Following up swiftly with a salvo of 'Crime', the opening track from the second side of Atlas, 'Past Lives', a dreamy pop song also lifted from Atlas, as well as fan favorite 'Easy', the opening track off of 2012's breakthrough album second album Days, it becomes more and more clear that Days and Atlas are two parts of a trilogy, the songs from both albums blending seamlessly with one another in a set that reveals the band's consistency for writing snappy tunes.
Throughout the set, it's hard not to notice singer / guitarist Martin Courtney, who despite his efforts to play down his role at centre stage is a remarkable presence. Something of a reluctant frontman, Courtney is a mish mash of almost every young, anxious, bookish, suburban, indie- rock male singer / songwriter of recent decades, recalling Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard, Pavement's Steve Malkmus, The Shins' James Mercer and, at times, IRS- era Michael Stipe.
Just as on record, Real Estate's sound is subtle and underpinned with only the slightest use of chorus / phaser effects pedals and arpeggiated chords that define the band's jangly guitar pop. Similarly, recently recruited drummer Jackson Pollis, towels covering his snare drum and tom- tom drums for a smooth, muffled drum sound, plays with the kind of simplicity and precision that suits the band's tight, compressed pop songs. Somewhat aware of their reserved, meek image, the band playfully improvise on snippets of hard rock covers in- between songs. The most rapturously received song of the night, undoubtedly, is Atlas' flagship single, 'Talking Backwards'; a wry take on communication problems in a relationship.
It may not be until the third installment of Real Estate's trilogy of suburbia- focused jangle pop that the band have a set full of dynamics and gear changes to sustain a two hour set. For those who missed out on tonight's spellbinding display of natural, musical chemistry, however, a 22nd October gig at The Academy has recently been announced; proof, as if it was needed, that Real Estate are the year's hottest property.
Review by Phil Cummins