There are a few reasons why a band like Jimmy Eat World has survived the ever-changing emo scene and it isn’t just because of their mainstream success. The band can still deliver fans the old Jimmy Eat World confessional- rock sound packaged in a new wrapping of punk-charged alternative anthems 17 years after their inception.
At New York’s Terminal 5 on Thursday night, the band ended a two-night stand with a sold out show and relied heavily on a catalog of old power-pop hits and fresh modern rock melodies. The Tempe, AZ four-piece have spent the beginning part of the last decade climbing the modern rock charts and churning out multifarious, unencumbered hits. Taking the stage a few minutes after nine, the band opened with “Bleed American” (now renamed “Salt Sweat Sugar”); a stellar, hammed-up single that lead into the moodier song “Your New Aesthetic”.
For “My Best Theory” the band brought out indie-folk singer Courtney Marie Andrews, who lends her vocals and keyboard skills to the tour, and also sings on the band’s new album Invented. The band’s lead vocalist and main songwriter, Jim Adkins, is a pioneer of sense-stimulating songwriting, bringing us songs about heartache and imagined worlds, sometimes from a woman’s perspective as is the case on Invented. He brought to the set what Adkins usually does; his signature smiles, stylistic hooks and distinctive guitar playing (side head bops and leg stammering).
The set list finely mixed pre and post- “Jimmy Eat World” tracks, with a number of songs from the band’s 1999 release Clarity. Fan favorites included the old school “Blister” and “For Me This is Heaven” and the dynamic “Dizzy”. The surprising addition to the Jimmy Eat World catalog of punchy guitar riffs and buzzing rhythms was “Coffee and Cigarettes” and “Evidence”, two songs primed for radio play. Courtney’s backup vocals on the tracks provide a refreshing augmentation for the band in addition to the bells and keyboard sounds inserted throughout.
But their most distinctive sound comes from Adkins’ voice, which bleats and blares at a tenor tone that’s often indescribable. The band’s four-song encore was a medley of hits that included the tender yet strong ballad “23”; the raucous and gutsy “Pain”; the band’s most successful hit “The Middle”; and the sing-along “Sweetness”. The set list and stage presence of Jimmy Eat World was a reminder that the art of crafting fine tunes is not dead. Sure, their hits are catchy and true, in the music scene today you don’t need much songwriting skills to get to the top of a Billboard chart, but Jimmy Ear World has it and they have drive and staying power and know how to make a beautiful record time after time.
They’ve been around long enough to branch out into different genres and be successful in them all. But what they never get away from is the straightforwardness of their lyrics; their songs speak directly to the listener with the sort of emotions and raw energy their music encapsulates.