Like that old sweater that you bought eons ago that still fits when Autumn hits year after year, Jimmy Eat World never let you down. Sure, you may need the emergence of a new record to remind you just how good they are, and their past work may lay collecting dust on the shelf for a while after album cycles but goddammit they’re a dependable bunch aren’t they? You’re not skipping them when they pop up on your shuffled playlist, are you?
The size of the crowd inside the largest of Manchester’s Academy rooms is testament to this consistency – fashion, trends, technology and pretty much everything has changed over the course of the last 15 years since they truly broke through with ‘Bleed American’ but Jimmy Eat World are the constant. They’ve been selling out this room every 2 or 3 years, never trying to go above their station or having to downgrade and much of the crowd is likely the same as that at the turn of the millennium. The key to this? Their album-making craftsmanship.
This date comes mere weeks after the release of their ninth album, ‘Integrity Blues’ and regardless of whether the fanbase here are all up-to-date with the latest stuff, it is a banker that the setlist is going to please just about everyone. After a typically ordinary-man introduction of “Hi, we’re Jimmy Eat World from Mesa, Arizona” from Jim Adkins, we’re off and away with the main draw of the night – the songs.
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Grabbing their audience’s attention straight away isn’t something the quartet (aided by an additional chap on keyboards) struggle with. Opening with meatier numbers like ‘Get Right’ and the crowd igniting ‘Bleed American’, the well-versed thousands in attendance are soon in full voice before the only inclusion from the under-appreciated ‘Damage’ gets an airing in ‘I Will Steal You Back’.
From there, Adkins and co take a mellower turn with ‘If You Don’t, Don’t’ and a standout from the latest record, ‘You Are Free’. The band actually manage to play over half of the new album but you’d never really notice that the set is littered with so much new material; there’s no indulgency here – they are fully aware that any more than two new efforts in succession would be detrimental to the flow of the set and, because of this, the 23-song set never drags at any point. That’s some going.
Aside from the newer work, the majority of the remainder of the set pulls largely from ‘Futures and ‘Bleed American’ which is hardly a surprise being that those two records encapsulate Jimmy Eat World in their pomp. When they do venture elsewhere, though, the choices are immense. Hearing ‘Lucky Denver Mint’, ‘For Me This is Heaven’ and the Tom Linton-led ‘Blister’ from ‘Clarity’ are a treat for any older fans of the band. Likewise, non-single tracks from ‘Futures’ like ‘23’ and ‘Polaris’ are everything you could hope for. Affecting, rousing and faithfully portrayed with the passion of their recorded versions.
However, that could be said of the whole set. Barring an amusing but subtle vocal slip up from Linton in his over-eagerness to burst into the ‘Crimson and Clover’ line from ‘A Praise Chorus’ a whole verse too soon, the musicianship and vocal performance from Adkins and his bandmates is faultless. That one mistake is easily forgivable, too – the energy was high as the set came to its later reaches.
A ‘Futures’ singles double of ‘Work’ and ‘Pain’ bring the main set to a close before the inevitable encore materialises; it’s only when the band return that we learn that it happens to be Jim Adkins birthday although it seems that the passing of years is irrelevant to the frontman – he never looks any different, does he?
In true encore style, the Arizona fellas have saved up two of their biggest singalongs for last and the crowd duly responds by belting every word of ‘The Middle’ and ‘Sweetness’ back at the band. It’s probably a little predictable as far as encores go but hey, if it isn’t broke. Besides, it might be a clever marketing ploy to send their crowd away needing a drink to sooth their well-worked throats as Beermoth, a local craft beer bar in the city centre, were featuring a Jimmy Eat World beer for the evening – at least they have something to fall back on once they’re not selling out this place anymore.