If you were cynical you might say that Jimmy Eat World, who took the stage at Terminal 5 last night in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their 1999 album Clarity, were dropping their Foo Fighters-covering-the Outfield radio rock of recent days to cash in on the relatively recent, rapacious phenomenon of nostalgia touring. But let’s be cautious: Even then, Jimmy Eat World looked like a bunch of dudes who’d just stumbled out of a Saturday night bowling league at Kingpins. They’ve always sounded like the Foo Fighters covering the Outfield. And besides, if you were cynical, it would beg the question as to why the fuck you were at a Jimmy Eat World show in the first place.
Backstage after the concert, drummer Zach Lind mentioned that the band thought Clarity would be their swan song. The then still-teenaged band had signed to Capitol Records right out of high school, and were suffering from neglect from their label (their Capitol debut Static Prevails had sold poorly) and from a non-plussed emo/indie crowd that doubted their scene credentials (bands like Jimmy Eat World were supposed to be on Jade Tree and Crank!, not a major). Desperation and motivation, however, amply supplied by circumstance, produced an album that both sounded enough like their contemporary peers that they wound up becoming scene darlings, while still containing an accessible enough sound to bring the band (and the genre) to a wider audience.
A sold out crowd (ranging from people who were only 10 when Clarity came out to their older brothers and sisters) were treated to a performance of an album that deserves to be heard in this context. From the slow-motion entrance music of “Table For Glasses,” the Act I peak of “Crush,” the mix of ballads (“12.23.95”) and mid-tempo rock numbers (“Just Watch The Fireworks”) in Act II, to the phenomenal final third of “Blister,” “Clarity,” and the side-long coda “Goodbye, Sky Harbor” (rendered incredibly in all its proto-Postal-Service-glory with singer/guitarist Jim Adkins triggering samples of his own live voice while playing the chiming melody on a xylophone), it was a perfectly safe roller coaster ride. We all knew when the peaks and valleys were coming; everybody screamed at the right time.
After playing their decade-old album in full, the band slalomed through a back catalogue of woulda-coulda-shoulda-sorta hits, finishing the night with a lights-out encore of b-sides (“What I’d Say To You Now,” “No Sensitivity”) and more recent favorites (“Sweetness,” “The Middle” and an absolutely stunning version of “Work”). Whatever hesitation the older fans in the audience may have had about revisiting a time in their lives when lines like “the haze clears from your eyes…on a Sunday” spoke deeply to their otherwise misunderstood post-teen selves was long gone by “Crush.” By that point, everyone was singing along, screaming, even: “Hands around your waist; NAMELESS! STANDING COLD!” Jimmy Eat World’s music made them 19 all over again. And this time, they could actually enjoy it.–Chris Ryan