Fifteen years ago - fifteen! - a record came out that had a profound effect on me. It was a little record called 'Diary' by a then relatively unknown new band on the scene with a really cool name. A friend and I had heard "Seven" on the Spin Radio Network - aww, I miss that show - and we knew we had to have the record. So he bought it, I made a cassette dub - this was the mid-90's after all, and we were only 14-year old high school students at the time - and I fell in love.
A year later the band was no more, leaving an even more amazing record in their wake. We wanted to see them live SO bad but now we would never have the chance...
Flash forward a few years and the band has re-united - without original bassist Nate Mendel, of course - and put out a pair of good-but-nowhere-near-as-amazing-as-those-first-two -albums albums. We made sure to be there for the tours and the pair of shows I saw in 2000 were amongst the best I've ever seen. It always left me wondering, though, what would it have been like to see the original line up...
Last week, that question was answered. Apparently at the suggestion of Nate Mendel, the Sub-Pop Fab Four were back together to give their fans the tour they've always wanted. In a way, it was the 'LP2' tour 14 years after the fact - better late than never, yes?
I believe every fan that was crammed into Chicago's Metro last Thursday would answer with an enthusiastic "Hell Yes!". The boys took the stage and started the opening chimes of "Friday" and everyone went ape shit. Over the course of the next 90-minutes, I was reminded of just what we were missing without a Sunny Day Real Estate live show in our lives. The way Dan goes through the whole show with a gigantic grin on his face the whole time. How Will pounds the fuck out of his kit and works himself into a crazy sweat - first song: button down. Second song: already soaked through t-shirt. Third song: shirtless. Bam. Bobblehead Nate and his constant back and forth sway to the music - we got to see him with most of the boys for The Fire Theft, remember? Not the same, not all.
The center point of all of this, of course, is one Jeremy Enigk. That voice - a bit worn over the years and sounding a bit more harsh than usual this evening - still gorgeous. The way he's either got his eyes closed, concentrating so hard on the lyrics, just feeling the music...the next moment his piercing eyes laser focused in front of him, completely hypnotizing the audience. No wonder the first time I saw them I stood front and center completely enthralled watching the man. *swoon*
The set list? Near perfection. [Let's be honest: unless they came out and played both 'Diary' and 'LP2' front to back with "9", "Spade and Parade" and "Bucket of Chicken" as encores, you could complain about something missing.]
Friday / Seven / Shadows / Song About An Angel / Grendel / Guitar & Video Games / Iscarabaid / Theo B / 'new song' / 47 / J'nuh / Sometimes // In Circles / 48
Yes, that's right: new song. Introduced by Jeremy as "no title, just new song for now". It sounded exactly like you'd expect a re-formed SDRE to sound in 2009 - amazing. Like whatever happened never happened. Speaking of, "Guitar & Video Games" stuck out like a sore thumb. Apparently it was there at Nate's insistence, but especially considering what was missing from the original line up - "8"! "Rodeo Jones"! Hello? - I really could have done without it. However, "Grendel" was a very nice, very unexpected surprise that was the highlight of a night of highlights for me. [I always thought it was the fan favorite - how come no one went crazy for it but me?]
It was, of course, over way too soon and as they left the stage, you couldn't help but wonder if we'll ever see them again. Maybe, maybe not. I think I'm OK with it either way - they've left me with a near perfect experience and how I will always remember them now. Showing me that a record that was epochal to a 14-year old can still matter at 29, a full life time removed. Still giving it their all, still amazed at the effect their music can have - I've never seen a band more gracious, more truly surprised and appreciative at the massive reaction a song like "Song About An Angel" gets. If they decide to give it another go - I'm torn on whether or not I'd like a new album. A single with the new song and another on the flip side would be a nice memento of the occasion but I think a full album would be pushing it. Either way, another tour - even with the same songs - would be just as good. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
[Side note: opening act The Jealous Sound was a steaming pile and exemplified everything that was bad that came out of SDRE's rise and influence. Embarrassing lyrics, banal "loud/soft/loud" we-mean-it music. Just dreadful.]