By Julia Reidy; photo by Luca Eandi
As unseasonably hot inside the venue as the month of September has been outside, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins took the stage and within a song had soaked through more than half of his shirt. Before long, the sweat started flying off the tips of his hair, and coupled with epic smoke-machine-meets-stage-lights effects, it felt like the pure essence of rock ‘n’ roll.
In Jimmy Eat World’s case, however, it was actually seminal emo that revealed its essence that night. My 16-year-old self was in heaven when the quartet, intermittently joined by keyboardist and vocalist Courtney Marie Andrews, launched into tracks from their third — and ostensibly their most popular — record Bleed American. Beginning with the lead-off and title track, Jimmy Eat World played the majority of the album’s songs, interspersed with selections from sophomore release Clarity and peppered with newer numbers, from Futures to a middle section mostly populated by music from the forthcoming Invented.
Though Adkins did an admirable job of keeping energy high (and the audience proved an excitable one, even during tracks they didn’t know), the rest of the band’s members seemed a bit underwhelmed. To be fair, many of these songs are more than a decade old, and arguably, their heyday passed about that time as well.
The band’s chops seemed as honed as ever, but it became clear as the show went on that their sound hasn’t taken a great many leaps forward since Clarity, Bleed American and Futures. Though perhaps the lyrical content explored new ground, the punk strumming, bouncing percussion and nasal singing were what they’ve always been. For the newer content, Adkins’ voice even rang out higher-pitched and whinier than when he performed older material. Maybe that was just me.
But when their encore concluded with the songs it had to — Bleed American’s “The Middle” and “The Sweetness” — the crowd jumped up and down in such unison that the Center Stage floor shook with it. Such a sweaty, energetic mess can only be inspired by a band that’s proved its longevity and it’s continuing relevance, to those reliving our youth and to those discovering something new.