Most live shows follow a pattern: Open with something catchy but
obscure; move into the new material, sprinkling in a couple of old
tunes for the faithful; close with the radio hit; encore with
another radio hit.
And while Sunny Day Real Estate are hardly ones to heed rules, they
unabashedly smashed them last night as they opened with “In
Circles,” the only SDRE song to travel along a bandwidth … and
that was back in 1995. Blowing their wad in the first three
minutes? Hardly. Sunny Day were just getting the cumbersome “hit”
out of the way, ridding the room of fairweather fans who had come
only to scream along with the only song they knew. But few left
after song one, and the overstuffed room pleaded for more of Sunny
Day’s pain all the more as they were pierced by the band’s fierce
vocals, exploding guitars and weighty bass lines.
It was surprising that much of the audience was well under the
legal drinking age, considering Sunny Day had only one full-length
album, ’94’s Diary before they parted ways. (They also had
one posthumous release, a self-titled record affectionately
nicknamed “the Pink Album” by fans.) The group played few shows
(none in California with guitarist Dan Hoerner, who refused to fan
the flames of the media circus burning in Los Angeles), granted no
interviews, and put the band to rest while singer/guitarist Jeremy
Enigk went in search of a higher inspiration. Namely, Jesus.
Consequently, precious few in the audience had ever seen Sunny Day
Real Estate, the band at the core of emo-core, perform live before
last night. When word of the reunited group spread (sans original
bassist Nate Mendel, who’s been playing with the Foo Fighters since
’95; drummer William Goldsmith had also joined Grohl’s band at the
same time, but left after the recording of The Colour and the
Shape in ’96), devoted fans of the mythologized band held
their breath for the release of How It Feels to Be Something
On, SDRE’s first since they got back together this year. And
even though the album had been on the shelves a mere six days, the
cult of Sunny Day that dominated the crowd already knew all the
And the new songs dominated the set. Playing no less than eight of
the ten songs off their new album, Sunny Day made intensely
emotional and beautiful noise that showed incredible maturity.
Where the older songs were a bit rough around the edges, the new
songs sparkled like lusters on a chandelier, with each song
reflecting the light and color of the others. And while many bands
lose an audience’s attention mid-set, Enigk and Hoerner kept the
energy level peaked, lowering the bar only for seconds between
songs to graciously thank their fans.
Each of the 13 songs sparkled, but there were obvious stand-outs.
“Every Shining Time You Arrive,” with its acoustic opening and
soprano chorus, and the delicate “Guitar and Video Games,” radiated
to the back of the room, where the lesser fans lurked around the
bar. Even from the back, concert-goers could see Enigk’s eyebrows
serving as commas, giving his emotions pause before allowing them
to pour dramatically from his mouth.
Closing with “Rodeo Jones” off the Pink Album, Hoerner, Enigk,
Goldsmith and replacement bassist Jeff Palmer of the Mommyheads
exited to much imploring from the crowd for a return. And with a
gushing remark by Hoerner (“Every time we play in New York, it gets
better!”), they did, with three more emotive, soaring, moody
melodies. No radio-hit close, no rock-star posturing. Just utter
sonic bliss from a group making their valiant return from