Last Thursday, the melodic rock band played a warm-up date before the summer festival season kicks off, but opener Mary Lattimore won the night.
Real Estate hasn't quite hit its stride on this tour, but New Orleans was only the second stop on its tour for its new album In Mind. Thursday's show at Republic felt like a trial run for the remainder of its upcoming tour and the summer festival season, which will include Coachella, Outside Lands, and a number of other festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Much like the music Real Estate creates, the performance at Republic was minimalist yet sophisticated, with a stage setup that involved nothing more than a gigantic white sheet with a barely-visible image of the album color projected onto it. That sparse presentation made the venue feel more intimate and the performance more personal.
Real Estate lost lead guitarist Matt Mondanile last year when he left before the recording of In Mind to work on his second project Ducktails, but his replacement, Julian Lynch, was actually one of the highlights of the performance. His mellow demeanor fit perfectly with the emotions that Real Estate conveys, but he played electrifying, and at times psychedelic guitar solos with total ease, dominating some of the most emotional parts of the set.
Somewhat abruptly, the entire band exited the stage after playing a dozen songs and finishing with "Had To Hear." While the audience shouted for an encore, the band could be seen in the boot at the right of the stage. Only seconds later, Real Estate walked back on stage with glasses of wine from a bottle someone in the venue bought the band. Lynch was handed a glass of white wine, to which he responded, "White wine isn't great, but I appreciate the gesture." This slightly awkward exchange was interrupted by bassist Alex Bleeker, who challenged anyone who could guess the next song to buy the next round.
During their short set, the tone oscillated from melancholy to tranquil and back, but the more somber moments came as a relief from the times in the night when the band simply looked aloof. The band played well, but did not always connect with the audience, though the stoic dispositions did offer a blank slate for interpretation of the intense imagery and metaphors in the music.
Real Estate's blank, relaxed vibe made their performance feel more like a week night jam session than a show, and the band bore that out when it stretched out the show-closing "Two Arrows" into a five-minute jam.
The icing on the cake for the night came in the form the opener, Mary Lattimore, a harpist from Philadelphia. I suspect many were were apprehensive that her set might lean toward classical music, but the entire venue fell silent for her first song, and the angelic resonance of the strings filled the venue.
In her songs, Lattimore found meaning in the everyday. One song came from her obsession with the Instagram page of astronaut Scott Kelly, and the juxtaposition of him returning from space, where he walked, and a leg injury that hobbled her. In another song, Lattimore became sentimental about getting a sandwich at Wawa, a convenient store chain on the East Coast.
Lattimore played all parts of her harp including it's sound box, and used a synthesizer to add more modern elements to her music. During "Otis Walks Into The Woods," she paired a softly pulsing synth with the strings and percussion to create a futuristic sound. It was just enough to deliver her songs, but not so much that the instrumentation got between her and her audience. Her short stories gave her songs context and allowed her audience to make an emotional connection to her and her music--some Real Estate struggled to do.