Review and photos – Sunny Day Real Estate at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Sept 17 2009
– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Jessica Bardosh
Discussing the idea of influence in an interview with the Onion‘s AV Club, Sunny Day Real Estate guitarist Dan Hoerner recently said, “I was trying to be The Edge. I just sucked at playing guitar, so I was not able to be The Edge. But if I could have been in a U2 cover band and played The Edge’s music perfectly, that’s probably the career path I would have taken…”
As uncool as it may be in some circles, Hoerner’s admission is priceless in its humility. Forget emo (at least for a moment): last night’s Commodore Ballroom show, the first “official” date (SDRE played to 300 people the night before in Tacoma) of the band’s reunion tour, showed that Sunny Day Real Estate has created its own version of arena rock, one as epic and majestic in its way as U2’s.
Coming out to a hero’s welcome, Hoerner and bandmates Jeremy Enigk, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith proceeded to make enough noise to fill an arena and then some. The songs, which turn on a dime and require split-second timing seemed to come effortlessly to the long-dormant foursome as they conjured up the monumental yearning of its ’90s sound.
From the moment the band kicked into opener “Friday” and Enigk’s spooky, soaring voice took hold, until the three-song encore 45 minutes later, Sunny Day Real Estate lived up to the legend that’s grown up around it in the last 10 years. And everyone onstage seemed genuinely happy to be there, playing to a half-full house (600, maybe 700 people, tops). Hoerner saved his biggest smile for a song midset, the one new tune, and which held its own against the older monsters.
But. Maybe Sunny Day Real Estate is one of those bands which makes its greatest impact on its fans with the first album heard. Because, as much as people swear by Diary and LP2, the group’s first records, for my money SDRE’s songwriting didn’t really come to match its sound until record # 3, How It Feels to Be Something On. On those first two records you can hear a band finding its voice, and even today on the freshly minted reissues Sunny Day Real Estate’s dynamics and arrangements are stunningly in place. But the songs can meander, sometimes reaching no clear destination. By How It Feels (and its follow up The Rising Tide) Mendel had left to join the Foo Fighters, and the songwriting team of Enigk and Hoerner seemed less interested in challenging their musical chops than crafting gems like “Guitar and Videogames”.
Clear exceptions being “Seven”, “In Circles” and “Song About An Angel”, all from Diary and all of which were performed last night. (For completists, the full set-list was “Friday”, “Seven”, “Red Elephant”, “Song About an Angel”, “Grendel”, “Shadows”, “Iscarabaid”, “New Song”, “J’Nuh”, and “Sometimes”, with an encore of “In Circles”, “48” and “Spade and Parade”.)
Anyway, maybe later songs like “Guitar and Videogames” will get aired out on future tour dates. In the meantime, it’s great to have this wannabe U2 cover band back.