My second gig in 2 nights – both with Rachel in tow, I’m happy to report! – saw us blasting down a soggy M4 for an evening with Jimmy Eat World, perennial favourites of both of ours, evidenced not only by this being the 11th time I’d seen them overall (and 5th at this venue), but also by the fact that this was also a late add-on to my Autumn Dance Card, but, like last night’s host Frank Turner, another complete “no doubter”! The Arizonian powerpop/ melodic emo veterans had announced a tour in support of new album, “Integrity Blues”, their 9th and in recent keeping, a slow burner but a grower, relying on emotional depth and melody rather than upbeat power riffery to make an impact, so we’d again booked tix early. I loves the pre-sale, me…!
Our blast down to Bristol saw a reasonable arrival time, but we then had a frustrating 20 minutes driving up and down a packed out Trenchard Street car park (thanks to sold-out events at the Hippodrome and Colston Hall, as well as this one) before finding a parking spot. So we hit the venue just before openers The Amazons were due on at 8, and wormed our way down to our usual stage left floor spot to catch their set. From up the road in Reading, they played some traditional straight-ahead post grunge laze rock recalling very early Teenage Fanclub, with decent two part pseudo choral harmonies also a feature. An old fashioned, tried and trusted formula, maybe, but it works, so don’t knock it! Third number “What’s Your Secret” was a melodic and hooky delight, and the lead track to a forthcoming EP featured a creepy opening, giving way to a pounding bass heavy rhythm and a dead-stop pregnant pause – I like those! “We’ve played the Thekla, The Louisiana, we’ve done the Bristol ladder! It’s great to be playing at the biggest place in town,” gushed vocalist Matt, and the grungy, riff-heavy finale concluded a strong support set which indicated aspirations to play this venue in their own right might not be that far-fetched. I’d certainly check them out again…
The floor then became uncomfortably crowded, proper old-school rammed, providing a stark contrast between tonight and last night’s gigs, sell outs both – we found decent pockets of space with room to at least swing a small rodent last night, but here, simply putting hands in pockets was a considerable task… Luckily Jimmy Eat World didn’t prolong our wait, coming on promptly at 9 to no intro, and easing into a toughened-up version of dark, introspective newie “Get Right”. An incendiary “Bleed American” followed up, all seething power and strident chorus, although the usually brilliantly dramatic middle 8 featured a couple of odd- or bum-sounding notes. Early doors, though, the band were rocking, up to a chugging, angular “Big Casino”, after which the boys finally paused for breath and Jim Adkins announced, “it’s good to be back!”
The ballad “Hear You Me”, the backlit strobe accentuating its’ poignant emotional effect, was a stark, acoustically delivered early set highlight, but thereafter the set drifted for me for a chunk of its’ mid-section, a messy but smoothly melodic “Coffee And Cigarettes” and an understated but groovy “Lucky Denver Mint” notwithstanding. This had capped a 3-song vignette of older, “Clarity” material which seemed poorly chosen and garnered scant reaction from the otherwise enthusiastic sell-out crowd, and too many of the new numbers meandered in a mid-paced manner, lacking either emotional gravitas or powerful, strident impact. As if acknowledging this, Adkins finally hollered, “God Damn!” before a furious, angry riff-fest heralded a blistering “A Praise Chorus”, easily the best number tonight and just the thing to revitalise the set.
“We’ve been playing in some super hot spots lately; this feels relaxing compared to some of those places,” announced Adkins, “[but] this is like the ultimate party; as a musician this is what it’s all about!” This comment received a huge ovation, just the impetus for a strong finish to the set. A yearning “23” was excellent, “Work” was a titanic singalong, Adkins going off-mic to conduct the crowd, and a breathless, jagged “Pain” concluded a variable set; strong start, saggy middle, superb finish.
The boys took a lengthy bow after excellent encores of a joyful, playful “The Middle” and an excellently tumbling “Sweetness”, and we left for a sodden drive home with Jim Adkins’ fulsome praise ringing in our ears, and an unexpected set-list in my happy clutches. Seen them better, for sure, but any Jimmy Eat World gig – especially if “A Praise Chorus” is in the set – is a good night out!