The packed, immobile wall-to-wall crowd at the Chapel in San Francisco showed up to jam out to Real Estate’s singles and fan favorites, but it was unclear how they would react to all the change Real Estate had to offer. With the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free” curated as preshow music and the slowly spinning disco ball twinkling pendulously above, accented by the Chapel’s vestry-like ceiling, it was anybody’s guess.
On Tuesday, after local opening act Emotional, the boys of Real Estate took to the stage precisely at their 10:30 p.m. call time. All denim and loose faded T-shirts, the five suburban surf rockers waited casually for drummer Jackson Pollis, his long blonde matte of hair accentuating his Muppet-like movements, to tap his drumsticks and begin their opening song “Easy.”
Three days sold out and widely circulated; Real Estate’s stint in San Francisco’s recently renovated Chapel came on the coattails of a recent changeup in the band’s composition.
Guitarist Matt Mondanile, childhood best friend to frontman Martin Courtney and seminal founding member of Real Estate, recently announced his withdrawal from the band to focus on his own personal project, Ducktails. With Mondanile set free from the band, so to speak, former solo artist and fellow Ridgewood, New Jersey resident Julian Lynch has since replaced Mondanile in touring and recording new material.
Concertgoers had nothing to fear from this change-up. Lynch’s live guitar work added fresh dimensionality without compromising the integrity of material created before he joined. Playing with more hard, electric rock sounds, Lynch inserted languid, expert riffs complementary to the carefully cultivated ease of Real Estate’s music. After closing on early Real Estate track “Past Lives,” Lynch gleefully exclaimed, “Guys, I’m having the best time!”
Real Estate has been debuting new songs live for its upcoming follow-up album to 2014’s Atlas since Mondanile’s departure.
“We’ve just finished making a brand new record!” announced lead singer Martin Courtney on Tuesday to the captivated, Bay Area crowd after reminiscing in Atlas nostalgia mid-show with “Had to Hear.”
The quintet performed four brand new songs (“Harpsichord,” “Saturday,” “Darling” and “Dec. 7”) in Tel Aviv’s Barby Club in late May and then another new song, “Circus,” at the Parque da Bela Vista in Lisbon later that same week. Besides a show at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, this three-day residency at the Chapel was the first time that many of these songs were performed for a live audience in the United States.
Real Estate performed all these songs over the course of its sold-out three-day residency at the Chapel, along with four brand new never-before-performed pieces of new music, soon to be recorded with Lynch post-tour.
New songs “Sleaze” and “43 Beacon” debuted on the first day of its residency, June 27. And the next day, June 28, the band performed “Waltz” and a new as-yet-untitled song.
“That’s a new song,” Courtney cheekily confided to the crowd after finishing the latter. “We haven’t named it yet, so it’s called ‘The New Song.’”
Newly performed songs off the upcoming record featured new keyboard synth progressions and complex ambient structures to Real Estate’s common suburban beach rock formulas.
Incredibly promising, the band’s current songwriting process seems to be focused on lyricism and emotional resonance as much as on its classic formula of easy interweaved guitar and faded vocals. A mournful feeling permeates Real Estate’s new songs lyrically far past its usual level of wistful nostalgia. Courtney live sounds more emotive than on any recording and more plaintive than on any of his distilled vocals on tracks.
Launching into “Crime,” Real Estate hit its climax of the night, blasting its hit Atlas single to a hyped crowd. “It’s Real” yielded big crowd buzz as well.
Tuesday featured the longest encore of the residency and the longest set list of the three nights. Waltzing back onstage, Courtney griped about the ritualism of encores but still proceeded to slam the audience with a four-song jam session, culminating in new song “Circus” and Days-era jam “All The Same” replete with Lynch on his knees and keyboardist Matt Kallman baptizing the Chapel with a chord progression of gospel church organ.
Midway through Tuesday’s enjoyably endless set, bassist Alex Bleeker looked out into the Chapel crowd and broadcasted that “This must be our favorite city to play in. Three nights in the Chapel is just unreal.”
With each of its shows fully sold out and four new songs to share, believe Real Estate when it says, “It’s real.”