“You’re not bigger than this,” goes the chorus of “Lucky Denver Mint,” the buoyant second track off Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 breakthrough, Clarity. And last night at NYC’s Terminal 5, exactly 10 years from the day their landmark record hit store shelves, the Arizona-based foursome embraced their own mantra, keeping things simple, and even a bit humble, as they romped straight through Clarity, in order, before 3,000-plus die hard fans.
Jimmy Eat World’s been filling rooms like Terminal 5 and larger for the past decade due to their earnest, forthright songwriting and no-frills live shows. Unlike many bands who’ve aped their sonic style and lyrical aesthetic — a handful of whom cheered and sang along from the VIP balcony — Jimmy Eat World have no fancy haircuts, and certainly no guyliner. In fact, based on their wardrobe last night, they could have been fresh from a trip through the carpool lane, driving minivans filled with juice boxes and healthy snacks.
Their reliance on substance over style always allowed their songs to hold the spotlight, and the songs from Clarity rank among their best. A colleague even referred to it as emo’s “mothership,” and it’s not hard to see why: The fits of yearning on “Crush” and slow-burning contemplation on “Sunday” felt as vital last night as they did ten years ago, or anytime in between. And on “For Me This Is Heaven,” when frontman Jim Adkins cooed the refrain, “Can you still feel the butterflies,” we still did, quite deeply.
There were some drawbacks, though, to hearing one solitary album performed in exact tracklisting order, and the band seemed a bit nonplussed about it at times, taking about five songs to truly get energized, sweat finally soaking through Adkins’ unchanged-since-the-mid-’90s center-parted haircut. “This [next song] should come as no surprise,” Adkins even quipped before launching into track eight, “Ten.” Anticipation is a huge part of seeing live music, and with a predetermined setlist and relatively faithful renditions of the album’s 13 tracks, suspense was at a minimum.
Unless Clarity is your favorite album, that is — something undeniably true to many in the room. How could you tell? Even Clarity‘s penultimate track, “Blister,” got as much sing-along love as anything from the album’s first half.
For those less familiar with Jimmy Eat World’s earlier work, like fans who caught on with 2001’s Bleed American and MTV hit “The Middle,” treats came in the encore when the band romped through its four most popular songs from this decade. But on a night dedicated to the band’s most devoted followers, the encore also featured two rare b-sides, including the emphatically received 2000 track “No Sensitivity.”
Needless to say, Adkins’ call-and-response on “Sweetness,” the evening’s final song — “Are you listening? Sing it back!” — was completely and utterly rhetorical, if even audible, over the crowd’s own engaged voices.
Jimmy Eat World set list:
“Table for Glasses”
“Lucky Denver Mint”
“Your New Aesthetic”
“Believe in What You Want”
“Just Watch the Fireworks”
“For Me This Is Heaven”
“Goodbye Sky Harbor”
“Sparkle” (b-side from Futures)
“No Sensitivity” (from 2000 split EP with Jebediah)