Concert review: Real Estate, San Francisco Bath House (+photos)

By Paul Gallagher

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Real Estate at the Kings Arms, Auckland. Photo / Georgia Schofield
Real Estate at the Kings Arms, Auckland. Photo / Georgia Schofield

In all honesty, Wellington's summer has not really gone to plan.

So a band like Real Estate is exactly what's been needed - a panacea of sorts at San Francisco Bath House to make up for the miry grey days the capital has endured over recent months.

It's evident that these New Jersey natives should know what they are doing. Their home state is after all the birthplace of the seedless watermelon, the ice-cream cone and the drive-in cinema - symbols of a more Arcadian time.

As you might imagine, a blended suburban sprawl of sections, pavements, picket fences and sun-soaked asphalt could be enough to instill in anyone a certain lackadaisical approach to life.

But for Real Estate, it's seemingly sparked a need to share the good times with their airy concoction of dreamy pop tunes.

Quite simply, the band has got that relaxed feeling of a simpler era. The brilliance of their music is that it's personable and endearing enough to put you at ease.

The band has seen a few line-up changes in recent years - but it's still held up by the bones of its original members: singer/guitarist Martin Courtney, guitarist Matt Mondanile (also of Ducktails) and bassist Alex Bleeker (also of Alex Bleeker and the Freaks).

Focusing mainly on tracks from of their most recent album Days, the band was always going to deliver a warm and breezy set.

From the hand-holding swell of Green Aisles to the coursing inflation of Municipality, the floating bliss of the Easy and the sing-along surge of the single It's Real, each song overlaid the last to construct an alluring night out.

The straightforward relationship between Mondanile and Courtney in particular was notable, as they playfully courted each track to its fruition on their respective guitars. Bleeker's plodding baselines melded well with Jackson Pollis' drum work, to ensure satisfaction for all those who paid to see them perform.

There are derivative accusations that could be levelled at Real Estate, with obvious comparisons to the Go-Betweens or Lucksmiths.

But their relevance lies in their competence and poise. So often, there's a tendency for touring bands to get bullish or too full of themselves, but Real Estate's comfortable and humble confidence exuded charm.

It came through in their performance as songs melted into each other with succinct effortlessness, with each audience member coveting every riff and every jangle played coming across with ease.

Part of Real Estate's attraction is based in that their listeners feel like they can relate to them - suburban, affable, twentysometings.

So it was no surprise to see them walk offstage at the completion of their set, only to reappear to mingle at the bar with genuinely appreciative fans.

New Jersey is the only state without a state song. But who needs a pompous show tune when your residents are already at full voice?

Real Estate's members are a refreshing display of a band that is unassumingly comfortable, not only in their abilities but also in their own skins.

Who: Real Estate
Where: San Francisco Bath House, Wellington
When: Friday 16 March

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