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Concert Review: Real Estate & Habibi at Columbus Theatre

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Chilled-out indie rock veterans Real Estate swung through the Columbus Theatre right here in Providence on Friday, June 15th for the last show of their tour. Accompanying them was Habibi, a five-piece group that combines surf-punk roots with psychedelic vibes. Audience members packed into the Columbus’ downstairs for three hours of tightly-wound sets and Friday night energy.

Habibi kicked off the show with an effortless swagger, steamrolling through songs both old and new. They showcased beachy elements via their guitar lines and classic 1960’s drumbeats that tied in nicely with tour companion Real Estate’s sound, with an extra gut-punch of forceful punk lying underneath. “Detroit Baby” sparkled with the poise and catchiness of mid-century girl group music, and the band’s vocal harmonies shined in the live setting. Punkier tracks like “Tomboy” and “I Got the Moves” got the crowd out of their seats – literally, as singer Rahill Jamalifard encouraged audience members to get up and dance in the seated theatre. (Such was the buoyancy of Habibi’s set that it was hard to resist getting on your feet and headbanging, anyway.)

Habibi also previewed some of their newer music – they’re headed to the studio to record their next album later this year – including a live debut of one track. The sneak peeks excited the crowd, and should have many looking forward to the new record. The new songs featured the signature Habibi sound, yet felt fuller, perhaps with a more rumbling underbelly. Either way, Habibi gave a fantastic opening set that could have been a headlining show in its own right.

Real Estate’s sound seems like one that could be difficult to recreate live: they liberally employ reverb and precise interlocking guitars on their albums, and the overall “chill” energy of their studio recordings risks not translating into a heart-pounding live show. When you’ve been in the business as long as Real Estate have, however – their debut came out in 2009 – you eventually perfect the art of transferring studio sound to the concert setting. Martin Courtney’s voice is just as smooth and calming in person, and guitarist Julian Lynch stretches across each track with well-used free reign. Bassist Alex Bleeker added plenty of jazzy flourish as well, jumping around chord progressions effortlessly.

The New Jersey quartet floated through recent hits and classic crowd-pleasers alike. “Darling” swelled to life, and “Stained Glass” shimmered as much as its title would suggest. Days track “Green Aisles” lounged in the sun, tangled guitars swinging through the air at a leisurely but committed pace. They band interacted with the crowd playfully, taking suggestions of where to grab a late-night snack in Providence and talking about how this was the end of their tour.

The pinnacle of Real Estate’s show had to have been the closing number of their main set, a lengthy rendition of the stormy “Two Arrows.” Clocking in at seven minutes on-record, the live version must have tacked on an extra three or four. The track starts off like a traditional Real Estate song – chiming guitars, warm vocals – before building into a twisted climax comparable to that of The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Drummer Jackson Pollis cut loose as the band generated a wall of noise that closed the show in style.

Want more Real Estate? Check out their exclusive interview with WBRU here!

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