by Felicity McKee, contributor
Who are Jimmy Eat World?
Jimmy Eat World are an American alternative rock, pop rock and emo band from Mesa, Arizona. They were formed in 1993, releasing their debut self-titled album in 1994, which led to them signing with Capitol Records and releasing ‘Static Prevails’ in 1996, with ‘Clarity’ following in 1999. They signed with Dreamworks and released ‘Bleed American’ in 2001, ‘Futures’ in 2004, ‘Chase This Light’ in 2007, ‘Invented’ in 2010 and ‘Damage’ in 2013. The band released their latest studio album, ‘Integrity Blues’ on October 21, 2016.
Jimmy Eat World were in Belfast on 8th November as part of their world tour for their 9th studio album’s release, which peaked at #21 in the UK Album Charts. The Arizonian natives’ return to Belfast was warmly anticipated following on from their previous tour stops in the city in 2010 and 2013.
The support act was an English band, The Amazons, who kicked the night off with a lead singer (Matt Thompson) who looked at times as though he was trying to channel Kurt Cobain. As a whole, their setlist seemed to strike a balance between melodies and thrashing music reminiscent of battleground mosh pits. Their style was similar to that of Jimmy Eat World, in that they could cover a broad spectrum and mix of styles, but The Amazons seem have a heavier approach to rocking out and have a quintessential sound that works with headbanging. They have an intensity and passion on stage which seems to transfer into their everyday lives, as the band apparently gave up their jobs to pursue music full-time. If their performance was anything to go by, this decision was clearly not a mistake .
The Amazons set up the night up nicely and the expectations were high for fans of Jimmy Eat World. The group kicked off the night with ‘You with Me’ on electo guitar, the intro having a growing crescendo to help start their playlist. Despite this, the crowd could be heard at times talking among themselves and while there were evident diehard fans, many appeared to be nonplussed by the band and only came to life occasionally when they recognised one of their bigger hits such as, ‘Bleed American’.
There was a moment when Jim Adkins forgot the playlist and tried to play, ‘Steal you Back’ early, garnering an offstage shout from a roadie of, ‘no it isn’t’ that elicited a few chuckles from the crowd. But the first half of the show was surprisingly muted and it only picked up the pace in the second half and unfortunately not before the last 3 songs and the following encore.
The entire night was an ebb and flow affair and while the band themselves were on form, performing a mix of old and new hits with the staging and lights complimenting the rhythm, the real game changer came during, ‘Pass the Baby’ and surprisingly not during ‘Bleed American’ which came immediately before it.
‘Pass the Baby’, the seventh song in their set list marked one of the peaks of the night. While it is a slow song to begin with, the ending seemed to engage the crowd with the metallic style riff section within the song, which was complimented by the lights suddenly altering to a red, harsh style, almost creating a demonic type harshness that caused an audible reduction in the talking of the crowd and the song ended with loud applause. ‘Futures’ followed and it was clear that something had changed. ‘Pass the Baby’ live has nothing on the studio version, but for pure impassioned performance that reflects Jimmy Eat World’s 20 years in the industry, their performance of this single song would be worth the entry price to the gig alone.
The band continued to play fan favourites such as ‘23’ and ended the night on ‘Pain’, a choice that made it evident there would be an encore as their classic song, ‘The Middle’ was yet to be played. This was noted by the small group of dedicated fans who had been singing along throughout and when the band walked offstage, quiet chants of “one more song” emerged from one individual. The chant was picked up briefly by a group of 5 or more in one corner of the crowd, but failed to pick up.
Jimmy Eat World returned to the stage and kicked off the encore with ‘The Middle’, which seemed to unite the crowd in their shared awareness of the song. Lead singer Jim Adkins encouraged people to pair off and dance, phones came out to record it and people sang along. However, this brief burst of atmosphere reduced when ‘Sure and Certain’ followed. ‘Sweetness’ ended the night, but should perhaps have been first in the encore with ‘The Middle’ ending the night. The encore reflected the ebb and flow of the night with peaks occurring for the bookend songs and not for ‘Sure and Certain’.
Overall, if you are a fan of the band, the night was a success as it included classic nostalgic songs that both tug on heartstrings and make you want to stand up and shout out. The band know how to rock out. The issue, however, was the crowd at times, who unfortunately didn’t seem to know how to or seem to be interested in rocking out. At times, the gig looked a little more like a dull band night where people merely stood and watched while clutching drinks rather than engaging. It became painfully clear that they didn’t know the band, their songs or what to expect. While there were more hands in the air, more people singing and more involvement from the audience during the second half, their previous gigs in Belfast have held a more intimate vibe that simply wasn’t reproduced in the Limelight.
The fans in attendance enjoyed themselves regardless, with individuals singing along and semi head banging. All the same, the mass crowd engagement of lighters in the air or a mosh pit was missing, and some of the magic Jimmy Eat World bring to gigs simply didn’t occur.