I've had an odd relationship with this band over the years, mostly ambivalent appreciation, tempered by skepticism in reaction to hyperbolic veneration and adoration. Basically, a lot of entities I respected were gushing about their 1994 album Diary, and while I liked it, I didn't understand the "hype."
What frustrated me even more was the "emo" tag. In the mid-to-late-90's, lots of indie-rock bands were coming out with a similar sound and style as SDRE, and they were being called "emo," with SDRE being the originators of the sound. What was frustrating to me was the disconnect with what my understand was of "emo." At the time, "emo" to me refered to "emo-core," a style of hardcore/punk with a more melodic (or "emotional") style, and SDRE didn't resemble punk rock or hardcore at all. Good, sure. Alternative, sure. Emo, not so much.
My frustration grew over the years as bands like Mineral, The Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World, and Appleseed Cast were touted as the next big thing(s) in Emo, while the style of emo-core I knew and loved faded into relative obscurity (the major exception being Thursday in the early 2000's). So I moved on to prog-rock, but that's another story altogether. I noted the SDRE "reunion" in the late 90's into the early 2000's, but I didn't think much of it.
So then out of the blue I hear from my friend John, "wanna go see SDRE?" I found out they were reuniting with the "classic" lineup from Diary, and John had an extra ticket. Sure, why not. God knows I need to get out and especially see live music more often. They were on tour, and they were playing at the Metro in Chicago, just a few blocks away from Wrigley Field, which was kinda neat (though I am required by Wisconsin law to hate the Cubs).
I tried not to have any great expectations of the thing, but I inwardly knew that it was kind of a big deal. I enjoyed some of the other bands of the emo-alterna-rock variety, and I always knew that SDRE did it better than anybody else, and I was looking forward to see how they would be live.
Well, first I had to stand around for quite a long time (which I haven't done in a long long time.. my legs were very tired by the end of the night .. yes, I'm getting old) and listen politely to the opening band. They were called Jealous [something], and they were from Los Angeles. They sounded like every other second-rate SDRE clone. A couple of their songs were a little interesting, executed with passable passion (and, uh, emotion), but for the most part they were, in the words of another attendee, "bland and inoffensive."
When SDRE came out, the audience was obviously very excited, which I thought was kinda neat, but whatever. By the end of the second song, I had been completely drawn into the experience. The band played very tightly together, and the sound was wonderful (well, the bass was kinda muddy, but whatever). They played with a lot of passion and precision, and the songs that I was familiar with came to life with intensity and excitement. Their music consisted of thick, rich chord structures, catchy rhythms and melodies, and lots of .. uh, well, emotion. Singer Jeremy Enigk's voice is very unique, and sounds even better live than on record. I couldn't understand most of what he was singing about, but hey, that's SDRE.
They played about a dozen songs, about half of which came from Diary. They debuted a new song, which sounded promising. Talking with the audience between songs, they gave the impression that it wasn't just a "reunion thing," but possibly a "we're back together" thing. I would love to see them continue where they left off in the mid-90's.
Excellent show. I wouldn't quite say that I was "blown away," but I highly enjoyed the show. These guys are true musicians, and Sunny Day Real Estate is the Real Thing. It's the kind of thing that reminds me why I love music so much. 2 thumbs up.
[Side note .. the date also marked 4 months of sobriety for me. Yay!]
Next up: Zendikar!