Jimmy Eat World, Mesa , AZ ’s finest proponents of heartfelt and irresistibly catchy emotive powerpop and melodic punk rock, are back with a new album and UK tour, and we’re all over this one like a rash. We got tickets in the O2 pre-sale, which was good as this show sold out within days (the only date on the UK tour to do so, oddly…), which was ultimately frustrating, as latterly my son Evan decided he fancied it, but we couldn’t get him sorted with a ticket this time. Darn!
So Jimmy uber-fan Rach and I headed off at 6.30, hitting traffic in Bristol then finding our normal car-park was full, with an immovable queue of cars nevertheless chancing their arm. Bah! So we headed back down the hill, parking up in the Millennium car park by @ Bristol and hitting the venue for 20 to 8, Rach then getting overcharged for her drink by a dim barmaid who didn’t know what a lager shandy was! Cripes! Not the best of starts then, but we were in place, stage left, for openers The Shimmer Band at 8. A long-haired rabble who took ages to actually get going after taking the stage, they played a very Doors-like brand of dangerous, down and dirty proto bluesy rock, driving and heavily bass-dominated (so much so, we figured their song-writing process was, “hey, here’s a good bass riff, let’s build a song!”), which I ended up warming to. A very brief – 20 minutes! – set was concluded with a “Break On Through” pastiche which even appropriated said songs’s chorus!
The brevity of their set however left us facing nearly an hour’s wait for Jimmy Eat World’s scheduled 9.15 start, and by 8.45 the floor was heaving and the sell-out crowd was bubbling with anticipation. Throw us a bone, please, guys, and come on early! Thankfully they did, as just before 9 the lights dimmed and they nonchalantly wandered onstage to a huge ovation.
Jimmy Eat World’s new album, “Damage”, is a more muted affair than, say, the upfront power-riffs of “Bleed American” or “Futures”, whilst retaining the brutal lyrical honesty that is their trademark. An attempt at a “grown-up breakup record”, apparently, it’s a real grower, albeit with the words rather than the rock carrying the power. In keeping with this, opener “I Will Steal You Back”, from the new album, seemed a little subdued, as the band felt their way into the gig, and the packed crowd response was appreciative rather than enthusiastic. A fine, smooth and deliciously harmonic “Lucky Denver Mint” aside, it took until mainman Jim Adkins bolted on a fat acoustic and delivered a bleeding-raw, heart-rending “Hear You Me” to really engage the crowd with a huge emotive and communal sing-along resonating around the venue. The subsequent “Futures” triad of the title track, an immense “Kill” and an equally powerful “Work” (preceded by the unusually taciturn Adkins introducing it as “probably one of the happier songs on our graded curve…”) then saw the band and the crowd really start to build up a head of steam. “It’s always fun playing here, it’s like everyone’s at the party,” remarked Adkins, beckoning to the overhanging balconies.
The gig was bubbling up nicely, now; however the final three numbers in the set were utterly stunning, an object lesson in how to finish a set good and proper. The majestic “A Praise Chorus”, their best number, all sinuous, soaring and swooping, kicked things up several gears; a blistering “Sweetness” saw the “whoa-oh”s echoing around the venue, accompanying the jagged riffery and juddering thump of the drums; and a final “Bleed American”, bristling with power and seething menace and featuring that killer driving middle-8, capped a set which eased it’s way in, taking time to build up momentum, but left the best until last. And better that than the other way round!
A 3 song encore capped with the joyful melodic burst of “The Middle” (“our happiest song – I’m having a glass half full day, noticing all the happy songs,” according to Adkins), ended an ultimately excellent hour and a half, with Adkins and the band, genuinely thankful of the reception, take a lengthy and deserved ovation. An easy set-list, then back to the car, avoiding the gangs of lairy drunken woman (!)staggering around Bristol , reflecting on the gig. My 10th time overall of seeing Jimmy Eat World, 4th time here, and another excellent night from a band who have consistently delivered excellent albums and top drawer gigs for 12 years now. Worth all tonight’s hassle. Oh yes.