all words: Erin Holmes
all photos: Kevin Carrol
Jimmy Eat World is that band whose music I obsessively downloaded on Napster/Kazaa/Bearshare back in 2001 (not exactly sure which program I was using to illegally consume my music at that point in time in Junior High). I’m also not mad when they still pop up on my iTunes now and then. So when Jimmy Eat World showed up on 9:30 Club’s roster, I thought it’d be fun to check them out and take a lil’ trip down memory lane. But, I walked away from their 9:30 Club show on Sunday night respecting them more as the band they are now (not what they were in 2001) and as talented musicians in their own right.
Also sort-of-surprising was how much I enjoyed David Bazan, Jimmy’s opener. I had heard of his former band Pedro the Lion, but the lead singer-songwriter is great on his own (or technically with drums, bass, and accompanying vocals like he was on Sunday night). He crooned with amazing, effortlessly-powerful, gritty Caleb Followill vocals that really dominated his performance. Highlights included Pedro the Lion tunes “Beauty Queen” and “Foregone Conclusions,” but nearly the whole set was a treat.
A full crowd had already packed into the 9:30 Club by the time he took the stage, and at first I thought it seemed dead and groggy in there (it was Sunday, after all?), but Bazan apparently preferred it—he thanked us for not talking and intently listening, while noting that we looked identical to a crowd he had just performed to at the 9:30 Club with the only difference in that our “mouths were closed.” Jimmy also came out to help out on one of the songs which got everyone even more into it. Bazan himself had a great repertoire with the audience and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself; he won us over.
Onto Jimmy Eat World. This year marks the 10th anniversary of their album Bleed American (the one I had on my Napster-or-whatever library) so my 13-year-old self freaked out when J.E.W. opened their set with one of my favorites from that album, “A Praise Chorus”: “I’m on my feet, I’m on the floor, I’m good to go… And all I need is just to hear a song I know.” True dat. I personally would’ve died with more “songs I knew” from Bleed American, such as “If You Don’t, Don’t” or “Authority Song” (which I heard yelled out from the crowd a couple times, so I wasn’t alone!).
But Jimmy and the boys gave a very balanced, complete retrospective of their work: four songs from Bleed American, five from Futures (2004), three from Chase This Light (2007), five from Invented (their newest effort, 2010), and four from their critically-acclaimed and classic Clarity (1999).
Set list aside, I could not keep my eyes off Jim Adkins, lead singer and guitarist. Jesus, how old is this guy (according to IMDB, he’s 36) because he rocks out like a teenager. Each muscle and bone in his body seem to go into his performance; it’s his truly infectious energy that seeps into the crowd, while the rest of the band just stands true and holds it all together. I was blown away even on new songs like “Coffee and Cigarettes” because of Jim. The winners of the evening—judging from crowd response and all-around good performance— were “Lucky Denver Mint,” “Let It Happen,” “Polaris,” “Futures,” “Pain,” “23,” “For Me This is Heaven.”
My own personal favorites:
- The intimate “Hear You Me” from Bleed American ( that song played at the end of “A Cinderella Story” when Hillary Duff and Chad Michael Murray kiss in the rain at a football game and it has absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful lyrics about someone who has recently died. Yeah.). Jim went on acoustic guitar for this one and the 9:30 glitter-globe sprinkled lights to set the mood.
- Jim stayed on acoustic guitar to go right into “Work” from Futures, with the entire club swaying and singing along to its lyrics “Can we take a ride, get out of this place while we still have time” which transport me back to when I first started driving, to and from my job at Rita’s Italian Ice, minimum wage, and thought Jimmy was singing directly to me. Sigh.
- The first finale “Goodbye Sky Harbor” from Clarity, during which they rigged the vocals and instruments to loop around themselves and send the audience into euphoric disarray. Then, finally
- THE ENCORE, which ended with “The Middle” right into “Sweetness,” both the most mainstream and recognizable from Bleed American that even the die-hard fans still hold dear. The audience shouted back the “Whoa-oh-ohohoh’s” to match Jim Adkins’ intensity and it was the perfect ending. Although, “The Authority Song” would’ve been great, too…