Almost exactly a year ago, the remaining members of Sublime, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, rose from a perpetual sleep and released an album entitled Yours Truly. The band featured 24-year-old Rome Ramirez as lead singer, an unofficial heir to the throne once occupied by the late Bradley Nowell. A great debate quickly arose: Was Sublime with Rome a valid resurrection, or was it simply a desperate attempt to better capitalize on a dormant cash cow? Many “Sublime purists” reluctantly accept the fact that the legendary band from Long Beach, Calif., died in a Petaluma motel room on May 25, 1996.
Despite the extra-fortified cynicism of critics, the album went on to receive mixed reviews. In 2011, Sublime with Rome performed an array of subpar shows. Since then, Gaugh has left the band, claiming he never wanted to tour in the first place. Ramirez, a Fremont native, seems devoted to continue performing under the moniker. Though there is no clear future for Sublime with Rome, many hope they will forge a new identity and take advantage of Ramirez’s talent. They made a stop at the Greek Theatre this past Sunday as part of their summer tour to a crowd old and young, cynical and forgiving and all very much excited to see Sublime, or at least what’s left of them.
The sun had just begun to fade. Three men calmly walked onto the stage. Bassist Eric Wilson, looking like a true aged rock ‘n’ roll musician, quietly tucked himself away and let his new frontman take the helm. It instantly became apparent that Ramirez was far from inhabiting the image that many fans have of Nowell. Nowell was a blonde-haired loose cannon who enjoyed performing shirtless. Ramirez, who is of Mexican descent, is calm and subdued with a head-to-toe fashion sense. Setting all aesthetic differences aside, Ramirez proved that his voice, which has an uncanny resemblance to Nowell’s, can speak for itself. The band performed new material like “Lovers Rock” and garnered the admiration of the crowd and a few bras along the way. The trio transitioned seamlessly to old Sublime classics, doing renditions of “Get Ready” and “Smoke Two Joints.” At points Ramirez had trouble hitting certain high notes, but who’s to say that if Nowell were alive today he would have done any better, considering his reputation for sloppy live performances.
Though lacking in theatrical showmanship, Ramirez seemed comfortable in front of the microphone. A surge of excitement spewed after the opening riff of “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” reverberated across the venue as it was set to the projected images of the Los Angeles riots and Rodney King. The crowd seemed eager to sing out loud, “Love is what I got,” but more excited to yell out, “187 on a mother fuckin’ cop.”
The night went on without any major hitch, with the exception of one man who got tackled off the stage after evading security. After a short encore, the band came back out to perform the night’s closing song, the crowd-pleasing and summer anthem “Santeria.” Hearing songs like “Doin’ Time” and “Badfish” somewhere other than a car stereo or iPod was the true reward for new and old fans alike. A year from now Eric Wilson and Rome Ramirez might be touring with a name like Slightly Stoopid, performing new material and giving rest to the classics. For now the future is more than uncertain. It could very well be that the name Sublime, or any variation thereof, will never light up a marquee again, but for those in attendance, the ticket stub will always say Sublime … with Rome.