Jimmy Eat World was set to make their return to The National for the first time since February of 2011 and since the release of their eighth album, Damage.
Jimmy Eat World was set to make their return to The National for the first time since February of 2011 and since the release of their eighth album, Damage. Not only did the Arizona quartet manage to draw a decent crowd; they were able to sell out The National with a crowd that was just chomping at the bit for the band’s signature sound.
That really shouldn’t come as a surprise to any fan of Jimmy Eat World. Not only does the band have a reputation for leaving absolutely everything on the stage (literally too considering the amount lead singer Jim Adkins sweats during shows), but in February 2011, the band delivered what had to be one of the (if not the best concerts Richmond saw the whole year. Obviously the band has the live act down and on top of that, they clearly have the studio work to back it up too. The band has eight albums of incredible material, one of which is hailed as an absolute landmark (1999’s Clarity) and two others that are worthy of any type of praise possible (2001’s Bleed American and 2004’s Futures).
The band may be a one (or two) hit wonder technically, but Chumbawamba they’re not. Hell, the band is a rare case in that their biggest hits were highly praised at the time and still are to this day. Pitchfork, noted hater of any rock song that charts higher than 100 on Billboard, ranked “The Middle” as the 165th best song of the 2000s ahead of songs like “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend. That’s a pretty big statement coming from that type of publication. In typical Pitchfork fashion though, they also gave Bleed American, the album “The Middle” comes from, a 3.5 out of 10 rating. Go figure.
Starting off the night was Knoxville’s own polished experimental rock band Royal Bangs. Outside of seeing the band’s name on random festival announcements near the bottom, I knew pretty much nothing about the quartet that delivered a set that left me slightly divided.
With no knowledge though, I was left with a sense of curiosity for the band after their set and even more so after seeing their fourth album is about to drop next month. My initial curiosity had to come from the off-the-wall configurations that the bands were putting into the songs. For some parts, the guitar work would be indiscernible while others would have me entranced by the playing of guitarist Sam Stratton to the point that I was hoping Jimmy Eat World might invite him back on stage for a blistering solo later that night.
The fact that probably half the set was done without a bass just made these compositions all the more strange, but definitely something I couldn’t write off just yet. My only real problem with this set had to be that at times, it seemed like Phil Spector was delivering this noise-rock “wall of sound” to the venue and Phil Spector’s in jail so I don’t know how he pulled it off.
I’ve seen other bands that dabble in noise rock before too and while it was similar, I don’t know if it was quite this blatant. But, I will say, in most of those cases, the studio recordings were spectacular and I have no reason to believe Royal Bangs isn’t the same case.
I left wanting to hear a bit more and with that, I’d have to label their opening set a success. I didn’t know them beforehand and now I want to check them out. Isn’t that basically what every opening band hopes to pull off each time?
Following Royal Bangs’ set, Jimmy Eat World promptly started the show everyone came to see. Through almost the next two hours, the band whipped through twenty-five songs that showcased the band’s catalogue perfectly. They didn’t ignore the material that gave them a following long before they made it big nor did they just pile on their whole new album in the hopes it will put it on the same pedestal as their best work. Clarity had four songs represented, Bleed American had five, Futures had five, Chase This Light had four, Invented had two, and Damage had four. I don’t think you could ask for a better representation of the past fifteen years than that right there, folks.
While the performance this time was definitely on par with 2011’s show, the set this go-round, in my opinion, was vastly superior.
The band’s recent newsworthy cover of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” popped up in the middle here too and like bassist Rick Burch said in his recent interview with us, it definitely was interesting to watch people’s faces as they realized what song it was. While their version definitely shows you how inane the lyrics are, it also is a beyond fabulous and would be along the same vein as Travis’ cover of Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.”
The crowd came alive for songs like “Pain” and screamed the angst-ridden lyrics of “Work” along with the band at the top of their lungs, but the highlight of the band’s performance had to be the last three songs before their encore. People became unglued as “A Praise Chorus” began, completely lost their minds for “Sweetness,” and rode the wave to a new height with “Bleed American” to cap off their initial set with the best twelve minutes of a show I’ve probably ever witnessed. The amount of energy through that time was simply astonishing and it seemed as though everyone was shouting every lyric down from “crimson…and clover” to “I’m not crazy cause I take the right pills…everyday.”
Contrasting well, the encore took a mellow route with the whimsical “Chase This Light” and then mournful “23” before sending people home bouncing and happy with “The Middle.” Strong song catalogue aside, did we really think they would end the night with anything else?
I left that night riding a concert high since the band had delivered a show that was on par with one of my top five concerts of all time (and I’ve been to more concerts than I can count at this point). More so though, I left that night enamored with the crowd that showed up. For a band like Jimmy Eat World, you’d have to expect that you’d get a good amount of people that would clearly be going to the show just for the songs that made the band big. You know the type too: quiet the whole show, talking probably through most of the set, and then coming alive for only the one or two songs they know. But while this might have happened to Jimmy Eat World right after “The Middle” hit, it’s definitely not the case anymore.
Unlike other one-hit wonders, Jimmy Eat World clearly captivated people enough to make them buy and obsesses over that 2001 record. How else do you explain a show where people were clearly excited for “The Middle,” but practically peed their pants for the first strums of “A Praise Chorus?” The crowd reactions here were even strong for songs like “Your New Aesthetic” and “Kill,” both of which are great songs but not ones you immediately think of when you see the band name.
It’s definitely a feather in the cap for Richmond to have such a strong, devoted crowd show up instead of a wishy-washy, radio-centric one, but it says a lot more for the type of band that Jimmy Eat World is.
I know there are many out there who write the band off as only a “one hit wonder,” but their music, live shows, and the crowds that show up en masse for them prove otherwise. This past Saturday night in Richmond was just another bullet point for Jimmy Eat World to add to their exceedingly long list of reasons why they truly belong to rock music’s upper echelon. At this stage in the game, how could you argue otherwise too?