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Martin Courtney - Elsewhere Zone One (Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY) - Friday, August 5, 2022

Martin Courtney-Elsewhere 1
11 August 2022

Having seen Real Estate frontman Courtney play a hushed, low-key show by himself at BSP Kingston in Kingston, NY in 2019, the announcement of this solo gig three years later held more intrigue. For one, his new sophomore LP Magic Sign is a beguiling delight, bettering his 2015 debut Many Moons, and even rivaling any of Real Estate’s five full-lengths; thus, the prospect of hearing its songs live tantalized. And second, New Hampshire’s John Andrews & the Yawns were opening the show, so the possibility lingered in my mind that they might be called upon to back Courtney for his set, as they did in stellar fashion for Max Clarke’s Cut Worms in May at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom. Sure enough, my Nostradamus-like instincts proved true, as keyboardist Andrews, bassist Keven Louis Lareau, and drummer Noah Bond did indeed join the lanky, bespectacled Courtney on stage. And once again, they were up to the task, providing the same crisp, full-bodied accompaniment to these dozen songs that they gave to Cut Worms.

Taking advantage of the warm, resonant acoustics of Elsewhere’s smaller Zone One room, Magic Sign’s two best numbers, “Outcome” and “Corncob,” shimmered beautifully to open the show, as did the lighter, sighing “Terrestrial” and wistful “Living Rooms.” Meanwhile, Bond’s brisk, snappy drumming kicked the set’s one harder song, “Sailboat,” into high gear. And though Courtney did not sneak in any Real Estate numbers like he did at that 2019 Kingston show, the extended codas on a few tunes did bring his main band to mind, most notably on Many Moons’ “Foto” and that LP’s show-closer, “Airport Bar.” Unlike larger, more prodigiously-attended Real Estate shows, which due to further vantage points are often best enjoyed by closing your eyes and basking in the alluring music, this more intimate setting allowed one to focus attentively on Courtney’s exquisite singing and guitar playing, and to better appreciate his delectable songwriting flair.