If there were any lingering doubts in the audience about Martin Courtney’s choice to branch out from his band Real Estate, his Saturday night performance at The Sett silenced all of them.
Despite the fact that his bandmates have released numerous side projects throughout the years, Courtney never strayed until he made his 2015 pseudo-solo record, Many Moons. After his performance, it is hard for one not to think of the expression, “better late than never.” Simply put, Courtney gave a spectacular show, demonstrating why he and his music are so likable.
But before Courtney performed, two memorable openers also took the stage. The first was a local band, Pollinators, who set the stage well with a slow, moody indie rock sound, which was a little heavier than the following acts.
EZTV, a New York-based band whose sound more closely resembled Martin Courtney’s, but also sounded great in their own right, came next.
“They’re very compatible with Martin Courtney,” Laura Oberwetter, WUD’s organizer of the show, said about EZTV. “We’re very lucky and happy to have them.”
The openers warmed up the crowd beautifully for Courtney’s set. The soundscape transitioned from heavier sounds to lighter ones until Courtney took the stage, whose music is the epitome of mellow.
Courtney opened his set with “Northern Highway,” one of his record’s most memorable tracks, and the audience of a wide range of ages immediately popped. During the song Courtney sings, “do you feel just like a stranger?” Based on their reaction, the audience’s answer was a definite no. This familiarity, in addition to the natural intimacy The Sett provides as venue, created a great ambiance that lasted throughout the show.
Another standout part of Courtney’s performance was the striking resemblance between his recorded music and his live performances, as he and his band somehow performed in a way as to not lose a drop of sound quality.
This is not to say the live versions weren’t without their own unique merit, as many of them gained a newfound impact as Courtney performed them. One notable example of this was “Awake,” throughout which Courtney and his band lulled the crowd into a melodic trance with the track’s dreamy guitar sequences.
Aside from the musical element of the show, Courtney’s stage presence was also top-notch. Despite having a reserved personality and presence, he was very charismatic in between songs. At one point, Courtney got a big laugh out of the crowd by gesturing to the televisions in the back of The Sett and noting it was the first time he was able to perform and watch UFC at the same time.
He also made sure to introduce the members of his onstage band. This made sense because though the album he was performing was technically a solo effort, he stated it was actually very much a collaborative between him and his onstage band. Regardless, hearing an artist give credit to those that didn’t make the billing is always refreshing.
Courtney finished off his set with his favorite track, “Vestiges,” off of the album Many Moons. The themes of the song, like change and the passage of the time, made for a fitting end for what was an enjoyable and introspective night at The Sett.
Izzy Fradin, a concertgoer and WSUM DJ put it best when she said, “I think this will be our generation’s dad-rock.” Anyone who attended Courtney’s show on Saturday will be hard-pressed not to agree with these words, as it is easy to imagine remembering this concert for a long, long time.