Review: Jimmy Eat World at The Commodore Ballroom
“I have a horrible time talking in front of people,” Jim Adkins told his crowd. “I’ve tried faking it ’til I make it, but it doesn’t work.”
Adkins, vocalist and guitarist for legendary alt rock outfit Jimmy Eat World, has been performing live with his band for a quarter century now, but still feels awkward chatting in between tunes. At least he’s up front about it. But in all honesty, not a single person at the band’s packed Commodore Ballroom set cared about this minor detail.
Fans were too busy reliving glory days and sharing excitement in this band’s legacy, focusing on a performance filled with old and new tunes, all of which created one hell of a generous 24-song set list– one track for each year the band’s been together. What a thrill for those who fell in love with Jimmy Eat World back in high school that the band is still going strong while all their former contemporaries have given up or moved on. Somehow, Jimmy Eat World still look like fresh-faced kids and still sound as stellar as ever.
For nearly two hours, the Mesa, Arizona rock outfit dazzled their crowd, spinning out a set that satisfied those looking for both old favourites as well as new cuts. Fan favourites like the sparkling, emotionally-charged “Lucky Denver Mint” and “If You Don’t, Don’t” brought back memories, but also just sounded so damn good. This band, complete with original lineup (an almost unheard of notion for most bands nearing the double decade mark), has been doing this for so long that their tightness as a rock group is beyond impressive. They plow through their tunes with huge gusto, and make it look damn easy.
The Commodore crowd wasn’t shy about showing excitement to hear these tunes live. Some of this material has been around for years and been played countless times in the bedrooms of many an outsider adolescent. This is fond material we’re talking about here. To say these tunes are sentimental would be an understatement, and their impact is still huge in a large room filled with those who have resonated with the lyrics and sound that Jimmy Eat World created.
Jimmy Eat World know this, and the band even pulled out material as old as the late ’90s like a few tunes from 1999’s Clarity. “Blister” featured guitarist Tom Linton on vocals, giving Adkins a breather from the hours’ worth of singing he would deliver to his devout crowd. Right before “Ten”, Adkins said “Here’s one of our old punk rock songs from the early days”. Sure, these songs are a world away from the power pop found on the band’s subsequent releases, but how humbling and endearing that the group are still willing to pull these songs out in their live sets.
But the newer material also delighted and delivered. Half a dozen new tunes from the band’s recent 2016 release Integrity Blues filled the set with some slight variations on the old Jimmy Eat World pop-rock formula. “It Matters” infuses Spanish guitar into the band’s oeuvre, while “You Are Free” embodies the tried and true empowered, anthemic vibes the band is known for, updated in a softer, melodic package that goes down all too smooth.
The only exception to the new songs being welcome in the set was the freewheeling, metal-infused insanity that is Blues‘ “Pass The Baby”, which sticks out like a sore thumb, nestled in between all the beauty and splendor that is the rest of the whole set.
But nothing was as satisfying as hearing two thirds of Bleed American live. A decade and a half after that album’s release, these tunes still hold up and are almost better now in live form than the old album versions. Adkins’ voice soars when these songs are played, and the whole band rocks out with full intensity that shows passion and enthusiasm for the record that put them on the map back in 2001. Most artists shy away from older material from ‘that one radio crossover album’, but Jimmy Eat World tilt their collective hat in a big way that satisfies the crowd.
Monster single “The Middle” satisfied the masses during the encore, but the beautiful introspective ballad “Hear You Me” and fiery guitar garage edge of “A Praise Chorus” really helped make this show a killer experience for the tried and true Jimmy Eat World diehard. Of course, it seemed the band enjoyed playing this stuff just as much as those in the crowd loved hearing it. That’s the hallmark of a great fucking rock and roll show.
“We’ve been a band for 24 years now,” Adkins told the audience at the end of the show. “The longer we do this, the less and less it takes to find reward in.”