Somewhere in the middle of Jimmy Eat World‘s performance at the skyline stage of the Mann Center a couple Fridays ago, I found myself with my hand in the air, smacking the outstretched hands of a bunch of strangers around me. “I just want to look out there and see a sea of hi-fives,” singer-guitarist Jim Adkins told the modest Friday night crowd, and for a moment it was some sort of post-emo / alt-rock utopia, where the aging punks who maybe saw Jimmy play basement shows in the late 90s were fondly greeting the mainstream bro crowd who only came on board after 2001′s breakthrough Bleed American.
And that’s okay. This is a band that can span worlds, and has ripened with age. I remember seeing the Arizona four-piece headline a sold-out Electric Factory on the tail end of its American tour with The Promise Ring and Desaperacidos; it was like this pinnacle “emo has really, seriously broke” moment. But the band wasn’t great at that show; they were aloof, uncomfortable on the big stage, not particularly dynamic in the energy dept. Plus there’s a distinct memory of Adkins attempting a sort of righteous grand finale of searing Sonic Youth-ish feedback and noise, and falling totally flat. He bent and shifted his guitar around in front of the amp, and couldn’t coax more than a steady monotone hum from the instrument. Dismayed, he flicked a guitar pick at the strings, and when nothing happened, he shrugged and walked offstage.
That man is no more, and the Adkins – and the Jimmy Eat World at large – that we saw take the Mann Center stage is much more seasoned, confident, knowledgeable about how to rock their crowd and human enough to remain humble for them. “This means so much, it’s the biggest show we’ve ever played in Philly,” Adkins said (which, the Factory might have been about the same size audience or bigger, but let’s not split hairs). “Thanks so much for supporting us all these years.”
The set drew heaviest on 2004′s Futures (a whopping six songs from it), serving as a reminder that while the album in its time paled in the light of its predecessor, it’s actually a freaking solid record. “Pain” was a rager, “Big Casino” had an epic sing along of all the Jersey-ites hollering along to the line about “I’m the one that got away / I’m a New Jersey success story.” And the epic encore of “23″? That was more sonically satisfying than hearing Clarity‘s “Goodbye Sky Harbor” – which was pretty dang satisfying, albeit shortened from the 16-minute album version to a seven-minute dissolve into “A Praise Chorus.”
Other highlights included “Appreciation” and “I Will Steal You Back” (and its perfect pop refrain) from the new Damage, a ripping “Lucky Denver Mint” (also from Clarity) and a hysterically spot-on cover of “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. Here’s 48 seconds of it. You’re welcome. Check out photos, the setlist and some more video from the show below.
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo