Martin Courtney mellows out Schubas with solo set


G-Jun Yam

Martin Courtney played a set to support his solo album Many Moons at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Feb. 9.

By Arts & Culture Editor

When a musician decides to take on a solo project, the result is not always what fans are hoping for. Usually, the work consists of tracks that were not good enough to make it onto the band’s album in the first place. 

However, at a packed Feb. 9 show at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Real Estate leader Martin Courtney debunked that idea with a stellar, hour-long set.

Coming off the critical success of Real Estate’s third studio release Atlas, Courtney set out on his own, releasing Many Moons with the help of Jarvis Taveniere—producer and multi-instrumentalist of the band Woods—who also played bass at the show.

The album, which came about as a stress-reliever following the recording of Atlas, deals with themes including Courtney’s transition into fatherhood. The intimacy heard on the record definitely came through in Courtney’s Tuesday night show, where a crowd of dedicated fans hung on every lyric in the tiny, cramped tavern.

In addition to Taveniere, Courtney was accompanied by Aaron Neveu on drums and Doug Keith on lead guitar. From start to finish, Courtney and his backing band impressed even the most skeptical Real Estate fan in the audience.

Opening with the track “Awake” from the solo release, Courtney sang, “You will not find me wasting my energy”—an apt statement for the general feel of the close atmosphere of the show.

Courtney is not the type who will crowd surf or swing from the rafters—and he most certainly does not need to resort to those types of clichéd stage tropes. Rather, he is skilled enough in his musicianship that he could simply stand in the spotlight and let the music do the talking.

Courtney’s everyman demeanor is what ultimately draws the crowds in. Wearing a tucked-in button-down shirt, he does not fit the mold  many might have in mind for a traditional rock star. Courtney seems as if he is most at home strumming through one of his original songs—getting lost in the harmonies and lush guitar melodies. 

He doesn’t seem to get off on the back-and-forth with the audience. The only stage banter from Courtney included the occasional “thank you” after a song.

His band Real Estate plays shows in larger theater-focused venues, like the band’s upcoming co-headlining show with The National at Red Rocks in Colorado, so it is nice to catch a glimpse of the man behind the songwriting fans have come to love in such a close-knit, intimate venue like Schubas. Crowds are able to see one of their favorite artists up close and personal and are maybe even able to catch a cover or two—like the classic “Harvest Moon” Neil Young cover and “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen that closed out the show.

Some fans at the show would have liked to hear more of Courtney’s Real Estate catalogue Tuesday night. The sheer mention of “doing some cover songs” seemed to get the crowd cheering, in anticipation that he’d pull out “It’s Real” or “The Bend.” But, there is no doubt fans were satisfied with Courtney’s solo set.

The short and sweet performance was the perfect cozy, mellow show fans were looking for to take themselves away from the freezing, snowy temperatures and into Courtney’s shoreline sounds.

If anyone doubted Courtney’s ability to succeed outside of his usual Real Estate outfit, all concerns were washed away on Tuesday night.