review: Real Estate, London Sebright Arms, 20th February 2012

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words and lo-res pic by Jonathan Greer

This was one of those shows you feel privileged to be at. The last time New Jersey band Real Estate played in London they sold out the Scala, but tonight, as a prequel to their Koko show in support of Kurt Vile, they are playing the downstairs room in a renovated East End pub off Hackney Road.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the Sebright Arms but I was hugely impressed.  It's a basement with a low ceiling but they have added a decent PA and painted the walls black.  Add a sold-out crowd like tonight and you have a venue full of atmosphere and buzz. 
Real Estate take the stage after 10pm - for the benefit of you non-London types, that's almost a late show! - and play for over an hour, packing their set with songs from both of their albums.  
They open with 'Fake Blues' from their debut, although it sounds slicker and updated and those guitars are already starting to jangle.  The first crowd-pleaser, 'Easy', follows soon after and then the band are joined by Louis from Spectrals on guitar for the next bunch of songs which adds even more power to their wall of sound.  'Green Aisles' and 'Out of Tune' suggest that they are sticking to the familiar songs early on and the crowd are lapping it up.  Bass player Alex sings 'Wonder Years' and the band start to resemble prime period Byrds.  The powerful instrumental 'Kinder Blumen' is the climax of the three guitarist section of the set.
The take the pace down a little with 'Suburban Dogs' from the first album and then tease us a little bit with the bassline from 'It's Real' before launching into the full song, claiming that it's only the fifth time they have played it.  That's hard to believe, as it has become their anthem and it's no surprise that someone calls out "play that four more times!"
A normal show would have peaked here, but it seemed like Real Estate just went up a gear after this.  The last section of the show seemed short but in reality lasted well over half an hour and made me remember what it is like to get lost inside great guitar sounds.  This wasn't a noise guitar barrage or challenging improvisations, instead this was beautiful chords and intricate lead passages that never lost sight of the song. Lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile (also of Ducktails) seemingly never stopped playing throughout.  I was so entranced by it that I forgot to note down what the last few songs were, but I'm pretty sure 'Suburban Beverage' and 'All The Same' were in there.
This morning I listened to Real Estate again on a sunny bus journey into work. I had a big smile on my face and it was all their fault.

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