MUSIC | Jimmy Eat World (and you’ll like it, too!) at First Avenue


I felt a bit nostalgic about coming back to see a band that I hadn’t forgotten, but at First Ave I was hoping to recapture the same feelings I had for Jimmy Eat World years ago, prior to hearing “The Middle” on every radio station around the Twin Cities.

It had been a few years since I last saw the band live, but it did remind me of seeing them in the same venue on September 13, 2001, two days after 9/11; Jimmy Eat World were then under some fire for releasing what turned out to be their breakthrough record, Bleed American. The show had an prescient feeling as their first show following the attacks; within a few weeks, the record was re-released simply named Jimmy Eat World.

When the screen was raised on May 27, the four-piece band came out greeting the fans and blew right until “Bleed American,” staged with strobe lights that gave the club almost a dance/rave/techno vibe as adoring fans threw their arms up and jumped with the thunderous opening guitar riff. J.E.W. have been around since the early 90s and some critics were quick to dismiss them as part of the “emo craze” of the late 90s, which I never believed they were part of and still don’t today.

They still have all four members together (including a fifth member on this tour, Courtney Marie Andrews, helping with backing up vocals and keyboards): drummer Zach Lind, bassist Rick Burch, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Tom Linton, and lead guitarist/lead vocalist Jim Adkins. For a band who have been together for close to two decades, they nailed the opening song with gusto and synergy, which brought me back ten years hearing those “Bleed American” lyrics, “Salt, sweat, sugar on the asphalt/ Our hearts littering the topsoil.” Needless to say, it was a thrilling opener.

This tour is in support of their latest release, last fall’s Invented, which I can’t say I’m all too familiar with but does still have some catchy “poppy” songs similar to their older catalog. Even if some of them do sound a bit over-produced on the album, they still work just fine live. Adkins’s voice has always come across as a distinct blend of shouting/singing, all the while keeping a smile/smirk across his face and his hair falling over his forehead. He is an underappreciated rocker, committed to delivering each song better than the previous one. Linton’s harmonizing never interrupters Adkins’s lead vocals, but the two blend lyrics and chord patterns together in a complex and striking manner. Futures, their follow-up album to Bleed American, featuring darker-sounding noises and lyrics than anything else they had previous recorded, has never sounded better than it does today.

Zipping through their 20-song set in under 90 minutes, the band was impressively good at playing to the fans. A few highlights from the show included fan favorite “Lucky Denver Mint,” with many in the crowd singing along—including the underage kids, who might not have been in kindergarten when the song was released in 1999; “Big Casino,” the first single released from their 2007 release Chase This Light; a near silent audience (except with the occasional beer bottle hitting a garbage can) engrossed in the somber acoustic lullaby, “Hear You Me”; Linton singing leads on “Blister”; and my personal favorite moment of the show, the incredible rendition of the 16-minute epic “Goodbye Sky Harbor,” with Adkins getting rid of his guitar and dancing as he sang the “la-da-da-das” as the song soared close to the ten-minute mark. Each of the three previous times I’ve seen the band, the song stopped around the five-minute mark, proving the point that Adkins was “that one small instrument” for those few extra minutes this time around.

After leaving the stage for a brief minute, J.E.W. walked back out for a three-song encore, and believe me, I was glad to see that they didn’t end their show with “The Middle” (a ho-hum song IMO) but with the more appealing “Sweetness,” with its opening lyrics “Are you listening/ Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh/ Sing it back/ Ah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.” The song ignited the audience to sing along and even get a bit rowdy down on the floor.

So returning to recapture my nostalgia for Jimmy Eat World was anything but disappointing, although, I wonder if I’ll be able to see them perform more songs from earlier albums like Static Prevails and Clarity ever again. J.E.W., seem to be focusing on the present and a long healthy career of churning anthems, with or without their hearts on their sleeves.

“Bleed American”
“My Best Theory”
“Coffee & Cigarettes”
“Lucky Denver Mint”
“Let it Happen”
“Big Casino”
“Action Needs an Audience”
“Hear You Me”
“Goodbye Sky Harbor”
“The Middle”