Better Than: Only screaming along to tracks from Bleed American in the comfort of your parents’ car.
Andrew McMahon once sang “it’s to Jimmy Eat World and those nights in my car” in the eight minute epic titled “Konstantine” that would become his band Something Corporate’s most important and defining track. In that lyric, McMahon embodied the sentiments of millions of teenagers whose high school years were defined by emo anthems of heartbreak and disillusionment that have never faded. Singing that lyric helped McMahon create a new soundtrack to those memories and drove home that Jimmy Eat World is probably your favorite band’s favorite band. They’re the kings of the emo scene and the forefathers of early millennium power pop with chunky guitar riffs that attempt to remain just as loud as the amped emotions of their lyrics.
At Central Park Summerstage the band jumped right in with “I Will Steal You Back,” off this year’s Damage. Jimmy Eat World are grown up pop punk in its kindest form, showing off their refreshing yet familiar new tracks with grounded confidence. Within the open venue, recovering from some slight mugginess in the atmosphere, the guys carried themselves with the same bouncy and raw energy that would be expected in a more enclosed and much smaller space. Accompanied by the intimacy of the lyrics, the band made the approach work with aid from the weightiness of each track packed into their nearly two hour set.
Several songs into the show, they slowed things down with the irrevocably heart-wrenching ballad “Hear You Me.” Jimmy Eat World at their best are a band whose emo nature is earnest no matter what the tempo of a song is, which is probably what makes “Hear You Me” particularly painful to get through. A few songs later, frontman Jim Adkins took a moment to reflect on the time his family lived on Roosevelt Island. He brought up a picture his mom had taken of a very young Adkins dancing to a marimba player in the same park where they were currently performing. He said this particular show is probably the largest Jimmy Eat World has ever played in the borough. Appropriately, they jumped into playing “Work” next, and Adkins’ largest Manhattan audience sang all the lyrics over and to him.
Following “Work” came a cover of Taylor Swift’s silly single and insta-break-up song classic “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which they recently performed on Conan. The pairing, in many ways, makes sense. Adkins and Swift carry a similar comforting quality in how they cope with pain through lyrics, especially heartbreak. The slowed down, fuzzy cover showcased the endless similarities in lyrical content that the artists share. The band wrote that song a million times before Swift just put her own playful spin on the concept, and this was Jimmy Eat World bringing it full circle.
When not reflecting on their presence in the trajectory of Taylor Swiftian heartbreak remedies, the band provided links back to the time when they hit it big and when pop culture reflected that boys do, in fact, cry. Classics like “Sweetness” and “Bleed American,” which were offered up as the last two songs before their encore, are like the sonic accompaniment to any Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie released during the same era when those tracks debuted. Both entities serve as a much more malleable teen angst that’s less harrowing and more fleeting, or at least that’s what was promised to us in show closer and seminal hit “The Middle.” As the entire audience sang “everything, everything will be alright, alright,” it was easy to tell that we all still believe every word.
Critical Bias: I’m convinced that “The Middle” is the most empowering and inspirational anthem of the 21st century.
Overheard: “Oh my God, it feels like high school!”
Random Notebook Dump: My life would be complete if T. Swift covered a Jimmy Eat World song. (Did some post-concert research to find out that SHE ALREADY DID).