Jimmy Eat World gave a sold out crowd packed inside the Crystal Ballroom at least one day in December to remember with an impressive 23 song set on Monday touching seven of nine studio albums including six off their latest Integrity Blues.
The band, currently on tour supporting Integrity Blues, continued a string of sold out performances as part of local radio station 94.7 KNRK’s annual “December to Remember” concert series held at the stuffy, mostly standing room only, third-floor venue in downtown Portland. Jimmy Eat World could be considered elder statesmen compared to most of the acts booked this month but the foursome (along with a fifth touring member) from Mesa, AZ certainly raised the bar and showed how it’s done.
The band started the evening with “Get Right” from Integrity Blues, followed by the rocking title track off their hit album Bleed American, and “I Will Steal You back,” the only cut off 2013’s Damage. Then some big riffs with “Big Casino,” one of two, from Chase This Light before diving back into their latest fare with the mellow “You With Me.”
It was an efficient and productive evening as Jimmy Eat World wasted little time getting straight to business ripping through song after song finishing the robust and diverse setlist in just under an hour and 45 minutes. The show integrated a career spanning catalogue of songs proficiently bouncing from album to album save for a few back-to-back blocks off Futures and Clarity as the evening featured a mix of tunes stretching back to 1999’s Clarity and every album since then. Big praise to whoever decided on the order, too, as boisterous, uptempo cuts embracing classic 90s alternative riffs, some punk rock and even metal always seemed to follow or precede something more akin to a ballad, but certainly slower paced nonetheless, preventing any momentum loss in an overall outrageously energetic show.
Yet, even when the band slowed the tempo, melody rich songs like “You Are Free,” “23” and “Polaris,” which shined the spotlight on bassist Rick Burch, thoroughly consumed the room. And, don’t forget “Pass the Baby.” A totally different arrangement than just about anything else written and recorded by Jimmy Eat World and truthfully it’s the one “skip this” recording from Integrity Blues but it is absolutely special live.
Jimmy Eat World might be best known for their smash hit “The Middle” and crowd favorite “Sweetness,” the evening finale which the band could have handed over vocal duties to the very thankful audience, but gems certainly shower every one of their albums. And oh how they’ve mastered writing catchy choruses that stick with you well after the show.
Check out “Lucky Denver Mint” coming near the halfway point of the show to cap off three straight from Clarity by following “Blister,” which handed off vocal duties to original singer and now fulltime guitarist Tom Linton, and “For Me This Is Heaven.” Then the punk-infused “Praise Chorus” was one of five from Bleed American coming in the middle of a dynamic three song stretch including “Always Be,” song two off Chase This Light , and the guitar driven “My Best Theory” the only cut from 2010’s Invented.
Then, of course, like all evening long, Jimmy Eat World dialed it back a bit with “Through” and the impassioned “23” before closing out the opening set with “Work” and “Pain” to wrap up three in-a-row from 2004’s Futures before the band headed off stage to stand by for the encore.
So, perhaps that’s what helps separate Jimmy Eat World from much of the alternative rock world and everything else garnering heavy radio play today. Smart arrangements, memorable phrasing, fun melodies and driving rhythms. Though Jimmy Eat World got its start in 1993 it wasn’t until after the 90s alternative rock craze that the band hit the charts with Bleed American in 2001 not only capturing the magic of that era but infusing their own blend of rock, pop and, heck, there was even a little bit of 80s in the set all while continuing to drive forward now nearly 20 years later releasing solid new material about every three years.
Adkins, guitarist and lead singer, didn’t formerly address the crowd until after “Polaris” when he said it was an honor to play and thanked the crowd for their support. Later, he joked about the band not going to the Grammy’s which probably wasn’t a fluke considering the release of the 2017 nominations today. But perhaps a fitting coincidence in the lyrics to the Crash Test Dummies sounding “Through” off Integrity Blues – “You don’t know what I do” – no, no they don’t.
Note to Adkins: If the Grammy’s don’t want you, then consider that a job well done.
Jimmy Eat World Portland Setlist at Crystal Ballroom
1. Get Right
2. Bleed American
3. I Will Steal You Back
4. Big Casino
5. You With Me
6. If You Don’t, Don’t
7. Pass the Baby
8. Just Tonight
11. For Me This Is Heaven
12. Lucky Denver Mint
13. You Are Free
14. Always Be
15. Praise Chorus
16. My Best Theory
21. The Middle
22. Sure and Certain