‘A praise chorus’
Chico sings along with Jimmy Eat World
For many people, Jimmy Eat World is the band. As the first so-called “emo” act to make it really big when its Bleed American album blew up in 2001, Jimmy Eat World owned the rock ’n’ roll hearts of millions of high-schoolers and twentysomethings during the early aughts.
Last week (Sept. 27), the band blasted through a couple dozen songs for a lively show at the Senator Theatre, and a contagious energy emanated from the crowd of mostly thirtysomethings who were obviously stoked to relive those high-energy days.
Japan five-piece Man With a Mission opened the night with a fairly nondescript set of hard rock/dance pop that was memorable only for the fact that all of the band members wore realistic wolf masks while playing. I have to give them credit, though—the masks really played. Super adorable.
The dudes in Jimmy Eat World wore no costumes. The four-piece—vocalist/guitarist Jim Adkins, guitarist/vocalist Tom Linton, bassist/vocalist Rick Burch and drummer Zach Lind—plus touring guitarist/keyboardist Robin Vining, came out in rock uniforms of black jeans and button-up short-sleeves and performed under a modest set featuring life-size streetlamps on either side of the stage and “Jimmy Eat World” scrawled on a huge backdrop. The uncluttered approach served what seemed to be a mission to neatly and clearly present the fan favorites from the band’s 24-year history.
The band delivered on that promise, with three-quarters of the greatest-hits set composed of tunes from three of the band’s nine albums—Bleed American, its 2004 follow-up Futures, and arguably the band’s best album since those halcyon days, 2016’s Integrity Blues. While the choices were impeccable—with first-half highlights being “Pain” and the gorgeous acoustic/electric “Hear You Me”—the sound was a little sterile, with some of the sonic punch missing from the band’s dual-guitar attack.
It wasn’t until I moved to the back the room to find a guitar sweet spot during an energetic version of “If You Don’t, Don’t” that a buddy pointed out what was missing from the guitars was their amplifiers. It turns out that Jimmy Eat World has decided to ditch amps for live shows in favor of sending their guitars through a digital effects processor connected to the P.A., with the guitarists controlling things via a bank of foot switches on stage. I get that it’s an efficient way to cut down on noise and that it gives the soundperson much more control, but to my ears, while the guitar tones matched the recordings, there was a measure of sonic color and grit missing from the room. Thanks to the crowd’s enthusiasm and the band’s spirited performance, it wasn’t a fatal flaw.
For all the times I’ve listened to “A Praise Chorus,” I had never heard the line, “Stick around, nostalgia won’t let you down,” but the sentiment rang true as the band stacked the end of the show with the biggest crowd-pleasers, including that prescient Bleed American track. A bombastic version of “Work,” from Futures, set the tone for the handful of tunes that best showcase Jimmy Eat World’s signature approach—gorgeous vocal melodies, punk energy and simple yet seriously tight dynamics.
After “A Praise Chorus” and the heavy “Bleed American” got the crowd really worked up, I forced my way into the fray at the front of the stage for the encore. It was the perfect three-song combination: Integrity Blues’ “Sure and Certain” (way more impressive live than on the album) and Bleed American’s two biggies, “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” the latter of which gets a lot of mileage out of “woah-ohs” and anticipatory stop/start dynamics, especially from the vantage point of a bouncing crowd all singing it together. The only thing that could have made it better would’ve been a stack of guitar amps blowing my hair back.