NEW YORK -- Brian McCall drove from South Carolina to catch the first big performance by a reunited Sunny Day Real Estate.
And, judging from his reaction, it was 14 hours well spent.
"You can't understand how special I feel that I witnessed this," remarked McCall, 21, a SDRE website master who braved the East Coast's heatwave during his long drive, determined to make it for the reunion show last Friday.
Arriving onstage at Irving Plaza to thunderous applause, the members of Sunny Day Real Estate seemed ready to pick up where they left off when they disbanded in 1994. The return of the acclaimed, Seattle-based band, known for taking the guitar-driven buzz of grunge-rock and adding lush melodies and acrobatic vocals, may turn out to be the rock 'n' roll comeback of the year.
The performance Friday was only the second live show by Sunny Day Real Estate since they reunited to record their upcoming album, How It Feels To Be Something On, due Sept. 22 on the Sub Pop label. It was, however, their first major appearance, scheduled as part of the three-day Intel New York Music Festival, which took place last Wednesday through Saturday.
A block-long line of eager ticket-seekers surrounded Irving Plaza on the afternoon prior to Sunny Day's concert. That night, the midtown Manhattan rock club was crammed with more than 1,000 festival-goers.
"Sunny Day is just the best rock 'n' roll band in history, and I'm glad that they're back together," McCall said. "Hopefully, the reunion will let more people experience them."
The band's label apparently has the same idea. Kristen Meyers, Sub Pop's national director of radio promotion, explained the label's strategy for SDRE's reunion album.
"We're going to release a compilation to radio later this summer to familiarize everyone with the band," Meyers said. Following the release of What It Feels To Be Something On in September, Sub Pop plans to promote "Every Shining Time You Arrive" as a single in January. Meyers also confirmed that SDRE plan to embark on two tours in support of the album.
The band -- vocalist Jeremy Enigk, guitarist Dan Hoerner, drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Jeff Palmer -- gave an inspired performance, concentrating on material from the soon-to-be-released reunion album. SDRE strolled through seven new songs, boasting titles such as "Every Shining Time You Arrive," "Pillars" and "Guitars And Video Games."
"Roses In Water," the third number of the set, was explosive, with loud, pounding drum fills from Goldsmith and vocal crescendos from Enigk. "The Prophet" offered more of the trademark Sunny Day sound: powerful guitar riffs, Enigk's colorful whines and Goldsmith thumping away on the bass drum.
"It's our first real show in four years," Hoerner told the crowd, "and it's already our best." The band performed a sold-out Seattle gig earlier in the week as a warm-up to this night.
In the early 1990s, Enigk, Hoerner, Goldsmith and bass player Nate Mendel formed Sunny Day Real Estate, who went on to garner a cult following in the alternative-rock scene. After the band's breakup, Mendel and Goldsmith joined ex-Nirvana member Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters, while Enigk released Return Of The Frog Queen, an orchestral album that was nothing like the sound of SDRE.
The band announced its reunion last August, after bandmembers reconvened to organize material for a rarities compilation. Sessions to record a new track for the project eventually became SDRE's new album, although plans are still intact to release the compilation. Enigk, in the meantime, has begun pre-production on a follow-up to his solo album.
Mendel had participated early on in the reunion, but later, he opted to stick with the Foo Fighters. One-time Mommyheads bassist Palmer has filled in since then and will perform with SDRE in September at Seattle's annual Bumbershoot Festival.
The highlight of Sunny Day's hour-long set on Friday came during the encore, in which fans were treated to the only older songs of the night. When Hoerner ripped into the opening chords of "In Circles," Irving Plaza resounded with a massive ovation, followed by one of the loudest and most coordinated sing-alongs imaginable.
The tune "5/4" (RealAudio excerpt), from the band's untitled second LP, closed the night, much to the chagrin of any fans who hoped to hear "Seven," SDRE's best-known song. Nonetheless, the crowd seemed satisfied.