LIVE REVIEW: Real Estate & Mary Lattimore at recordBar
I meandered into the sparsely populated recordBar about fifteen minutes before the show. I got a drink, and decided I'd have a seat by the stage side. It was my first time at the venue, and the calm atmosphere was held together by the high ceilings and cool air. An acoustic harp was on the stage. I racked my brain to remember if there was a Real Estate song that featured a harp. Moreover, I wondered why they would even bother bringing it.
I looked to my left and saw the harpist, Mary Lattimore, make her way to the center of the stage. She sat, and she seemed very comfortable with the audience. She had an awkward charm about her with which the audience seemed to resonate. She decided to break the ice with a joke about cannibals.
"This song is named after a cannibal joke," she paused at the audience's laughter, "What did the lady feed her cannibal husband? The cold shoulder." The audience laughed sincerely.
"So this is called Warm Shoulder," she remarked, and began to play. Immediately, the crowd was greeted with the whole of a classically-trained harpist's talent. Her set consisted of four songs over thirty minutes, and I was hypnotized during each one of them. Not only did she have remarkable talent, but also an interesting array of loop and delay pedals. These richened her arrangements, which, for me, called to mind Phillip Glass.
Interspersed throughout her set were instances in which she would even loop hand percussion on her harp. At once, the arrangements changed from classical harp music to a profoundly experimental presentation: imagine an ASMR harp concerto. One struggles to discern how a sound so full comes from a single person. She went to great lengths to explain the meanings of her song titles; one was written for an astronaut, and one was written for her dog. Her final arrangement, "Wawa by the Ocean," comes from her 2017 tape Collected Works, and it was perhaps the most beautiful: it was a beautifully layered and delayed harp serenade which set the tone for the rest of the night.
Predictably, Real Estate sauntered onto the stage right on cue. Martin, the lead singer, set his drink down on the marble table in front of me, and went for his guitar. This was their first show in Kansas City, and their fans greeted them warmly. Alex, the bassist, greeted the crowd. His lighthearted demeanor seemed to help the others get comfortable on stage. Julian, the guitarist, stood patiently in front of his pedalboard -- an expansive collection of phasers, distorters, and a wah pedal. Martin had a similar array. Matthew fiddled with a collection of four synthesizers, and Jackson waited behind the drums, tossing in a fill here and there.
They began the show with 'Saturday,' and it was surprisingly true to the recording. Their stage presence was what I would have expected from a band crafting such laid back music, but they all had veritable charisma. The low end was a bit overpowering during the first song, and Martin's microphone was a bit too quiet.
"Can we bump up this mic a little bit? Thanks." In response to the crowd's warm reception of their first song, Martin joked, "How come you guys have never had us here before?" and then headed right into 'Talking Backwards.' This song was truly a testament to their discipline: it was an absolutely flawless rendition, and the mixing was incredible. Fans were compelled to sing along.
Their pedalboards suggested that they'd be shoegazing, but their application of them was rather clever. Periodically, Alex would dance with the wah pedal, squeezing out that jangly guitar sound characteristic of Real Estate's music. The synthesizer accompanied every song, and it blended well with the rest of the instruments, although its contributions were inaudible at points. The low end formed a wall of sound, but in some cases, vocal harmonies pierced the middle of the wall.
Alex leaned over and grabbed the drink, took a sip, and asked me what I was working on. He seemed genuinely curious, surprisingly so for someone in the middle of a performance. That moment, for me, solidified my perception of Real Estate: incredibly laid back dudes having a great time playing songs for us. The performances were very tight, and the sporadic bass paired well with the unexpectedly powerful drums. The synth, when prevalent, was artfully incorporated into the mix. It added a lovely atmosphere to their arrangements.
The climax of the show, for me, was during 'Two Arrows,' a spacier track on their new record. The vocal harmonies were crisp, and Alex's solos were incredibly soulful. This was an extended version of the song, and a semi-improvisational extension proved worthwhile, as the audience went wild during the false endings. After leaving, they came back for a much-requested encore, in which Martin lobbed high-fives to fans as he slunk back up the stairs. They went through 'After the Moon' and an extended version of 'All the Same.' Picking up where they left off with 'Two Arrows,' they all enthusiastically jammed through the final song, greeted with cheering before the song had ended.
It's safe to assume that both artists have made a lasting impression on Kansas City -- we'll see them again soon.
Real Estate will be touring through the summer with Mary Lattimore and Frankie Cosmos on select dates:
04-13 Salt Lake City, UT -Urban Lounge*
04-16 Indio, CA - Coachella
04-18 Vancouver, British Columbia - Rickshaw Theatre
04-19 Seattle, WA - Showbox
04-20 Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
04-23 Indio, CA - Coachella
05-05 Boston, MA - Royale--
05-06 Winooski, VT - Waking Windows
05-07 Portland, ME - Port City Music Hall--
05-09 Toronto, Ontario - Danforth Music Hall--
05-10 Detroit, MI - Majestic Theatre--
05-12 Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre--
05-13 Nashville, TN -Exit/In--
05-15 Raleigh, NC - Lincoln Theatre--
05-16 Washington, DC - 930 Club--
05-17 Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Steel--
05-19 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer--
06-13 London, England - Roundhouse
06-14 Paris, France - Cafe de Le Danse
06-15 Brussels, Belgium - Orangerie
06-18 Berlin, Germany - Lido
06-19 Hamburg, Germany - Molotov
06-20 Copenhagen, Denmark - Pumpehuset
06-21 Stockholm, Sweden - Debaser
06-27 Cambridge, England - The Junction 1
06-28 Manchester, England - O2 Ritz
06-30 Barcelona, Spain - Vida Festival
07-14-16 Louisville, KY - Forecastle Festival
* with Mary Lattimore
-- with Frankie Cosmos