It had been since Chase This Light when Jimmy Eat World came to Utah. Back then, opener Paramore was beginning their ascent to pop stardom while Jimmy Eat World was supporting an album with no hit resembling the success of "The Middle" off of their breakthrough Bleed American. Regardless of hits, Jimmy Eat World is still a bulldozer of a live act which undoubtedly has carried them through the years of ever-changing fads and new Pitchfork flavor bands of the month. If one needs proof, a few years and one major label change later, Jimmy Eat World was able to sell-out The Depot in Salt Lake City with virtual unknowns X Ambassadors supporting their solid new album, Damage.
X Ambassadors immediately got the attention of the crowd even before they played a note of music when keyboardist Casey Harris was escorted onto the stage, with dark sunglasses and a walking stick. At first, the attention of the sold-out was on him due to his blindness, but soon, X Ambassadors began to win the capacity crowd with their brand of alternative R&B. The crowd was enthralled by singer Sam Harris' impressive vocals and X Ambassadors' experimentation with vocal and saxophone loops. With a short, six-song set, they left with a rousing applause from the crowd. It's been a long time since I've seen a band completely win a crowd, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear X Ambassadors on pop radio in the near future.
With The Depot filling up to fever pitch, Jimmy Eat World walked onto the stage to an uproar. Leading off with their new single from Damage, "I Will Steal You Back", Jimmy Eat World ripped into their 24-song marathon of a set. Leaving little time for banter, it was still evident that Jimmy Eat World fed off the energy of the room, with Jim Adkins goading the crowd to sing along (as if they needed it). Hell, even the often still bassist Rick Burch was pumping his fist, clapping his hands and moving a little more than usual. As usual, guitarist Tom Linton and drummer Zach Lind weren't looking to whip the crowd into frenzy but whatever they lacked in stage presence, they made up in being freakishly consistent. Watching Jimmy Eat World live is a clinic of consistency; whether it is Zach Lind's seemingly simple linear drumming on "Damage" or Jim Adkins' vocals or criminally underrated lead guitar playing. New touring keyboardist/guitarist Robin Byning was a perfect compliment to Jim Adkins' voice, practically perfecting Jimmy Eat World's backing vocals.
Yes, of course, the hits were played (obviously "Sweetness", "Work" and "The Middle" got the biggest reactions). It was a reminder of their talent for crafting smart rock/pop songs was what really got them on the map. For the old-school fans, "Lucky Denver Mint" got the crowd pogoing and "Your New Aesthetic" had heads bobbing, even for those unfamiliar. There was even a surprisingly, fantastic cover of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together", which had shades of the fantastic B-side "Disintegration".
The emotional climax of the show was the ballad "Hear You Me", a tribute to Utah locals Mykel and Carli Allen, who tragically died in a car accident coming home from a Weezer show in Colorado in 1997. It's not often you see Jim Adkins shaken from playing a song. Between vocal lines, he was subtly holding back tears but was able to perform perfectly through the song.
Jimmy Eat World's two-hour set was impressive due to the fact that it was so long and hardly any fatigue set in. The live setting is where even Jimmy Eat World's seemingly lighter, fluffier songs take on Herculean form and become some of your new favorites ("Appreciation", "Chase This Light", "Please Say No"). Some may criticize them for not changing their sound enough from record to record but I'm not sure if they really need to that much. As they get older, they are figuring out ways to stick to their formula while adding slight nuances (the addition of more acoustic guitar to their sound has been a welcome one). Jimmy Eat World's time topping pop charts may have come to an end but I expect them to keep giving their fans exactly what they want.
Jimmy Eat World set list:
I Will Steal You Back
My Best Theory
Your New Aesthetic
We Are Never Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift cover)
Heart Is Hard to Find
Hear You Me
Let It Happen
Lucky Denver Mint
Please Say No
A Praise Chorus
Chase This Light