There were obvious diehard Jimmy fans -- ones who ace all the prerequisites for being a voracious fan: loose, goofy, appreciative smiles, constantly mouthed lyrics and a friendliness that made them illuminate like glow worms inside the hall. The second type were show-goers like my friend and I who know Jimmy best from 2001's "Bleed American" and wanted to revisit songs like "Sweetness" and "A Praise Chorus" because tied to them are memories of orthodontist visits and fourth-grade shenanigans.
I was concerned before the show that I may have outgrown Jimmy Eat World. It's been a decade since I first heard the band, and I feared I had become such a different person that those songs I once adored would not resonate like they used to when I was a teenager with a CD Walkman. As if to further illustrate the difference between then and now, there were two very drunk girls outside who carried on about the atrocities committed by boys in such a boorish manner that it befits the hypothesis that neither gussied-up crass lass has ever paid their phone bill. But the band seemed to capitalize on the dichotomy created by diehards and memories. As the girls cried outside, echoes of the band's new songs sounded along Delmar.
After 20 years (the band formed in 1993) Jim Adkins' voice is still saccharine and boyish as one of those weird popsicles ice cream trucks sell where Bugs Bunny tastes like muted blue raspberry and has bubblegum eyes. He let it carry the set through the band's discography, which, for the most part, went from their latest record "Damage" to "Bleed American." The tracks translated in a live setting but were not as crisp as on record. Yet they have the same feel. In part, the similar vibe stemmed from the band's guitarists switching instruments after every song. In doing so, they maintained a similar enough tone to the record; even bogged down by the muddy live mix the familiarity came across like a beam from a lighthouse admist a night-plated sea. The tones shot through the dark and straight into the memories they soundtrack: The 30-minute car rides, the now ancient boombox, and playing "Bleed American" for my dad despite his pleas for Bad Company. Coming back to those songs in a live setting only encouraged conversations and the sharing of memories.
Part of those memories include the bridge of "Crimson and clover/over and over" on "A Praise Chorus." It is still flush with longing despite a dulled live mix. "Pain" came across, fittingly, as the most aggressive and the most tuned to a sound reflecting the MP3 format I know. "Sweetness" flew like a bird over the audience. Its explosive joy, culminating from a night of marijuana-induced joyriding, went over second best with the near sold-out crowd.
"Bleed American" followed "Sweetness" in terms of encouraging a riotous crowd response. The band did not pause between songs and barely spoke to the audience. The last note Adkins made of the crowd was a jovial barb at the caterwaul excitations emitted by the women in the audience. The band's down-to-business-attitude caused for an influx of momentum. "Bleed American" came colliding home after "Sweetness" and was the most recognized and spirited song of the evening. Adkins' youthful delivery still spills over into notes spiked in ascending pitches. "Salt sweat/sugar on the asphalt" just would not sound the same had Adkins neglected to pitch his voice into the mesosphere after every verse.
Because he stuck to the sound his audience has known for over a decade, it felt like not a whole lot had changed from "Bleed American"'s intial discovery. When "The Middle" lifted MTV's Total Request Live with its message of self-acceptance and filled the space of the Pagaent, Jimmy Eat World stuck to a formula that worked. It felt like living a memory.