Jimmy Eat World is one of those bands that a lot of people stopped listening to after their breakout record, and that’s a shame. Bleed American was a massive hit (tracks “The Sweetness” and “The Middle” are still in heavy rotation on radio over a decade after the album’s release), but the group’s follow-up to that record was called Futures, and it took their songwriting and production to a new level.
Futures covered new ground for Jimmy Eat World, bringing to the table some heavier, dreamier, darker themes. The album was released in 2004. George Bush was halfway through his 8 years as president, and we were in a war based on the concept of terrorism. I remember being a few years out of high school, hating the government, falling for the girl who is now my wife, and needing the passionate musical outlet that Futures provided. The album includes moments of pain and anger as well as desperation and hope. It meant a lot to me then, and it still does now.
As they did with their albums Clarity and Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Futures with a tour during which they played the album in its entirety each night in addition to about 10 other songs from their catalogue. As was the case for the past two anniversary tours, the stop in LA was at Club Nokia, and it was the last night of the tour. The evening also marked the first time since 2002’s Pop Disaster Tour that I was able to see Jimmy Eat World live.
The show opened up with the title track from Futures. The gentle piano line from the song’s bridge played, and singer Jim Adkins vamped the song’s chorus. Drummer Zach Lind led the band into the track’s normal intro, hitting hard and bringing the audience into a frenzy. The entire building roared the chorus, with the audience’s excitement building to match the song’s crescendo. It was clear this show would be cathartic for many in attendance.
As Jimmy Eat World continued their set in the album’s song order, I realized how comforting it was to hear the album played in person. There are moments on the recording of Futures that make you pause, but when played by the hands that wrote them, those same moments can be absolutely breathtaking.
For me, the majority of those moments came during the latter half of Futures. I love the entire album, but its depth is really unleashed when the first single from the album plays. “Pain” is a heavy, driving song with roots in anxiety, depression, and drug abuse. The energy that that song brought live was thriving and frantic, and it caused even the people in the balcony seats to stand up and bounce to the beat.
After “Pain,” the album mellows out quite a bit, as Jimmy Eat World albums tend to do, but that didn’t mean the live show’s energy dropped. The band knows how to build its songs better than most I’ve seen. Songs like “Drugs Or Me,” “Nightdrive,” and the album’s epic closer “23” deliver such cathartic moments in a set you have to grab ahold of your seat to remind yourself where you are. “23” would mark the end of the first of three sets.
Jimmy Eat World came back out and gave the audience some treats that probably don’t see much stage time. They played three songs from their 2005 EP, Stay On My Side Tonight, including “Disintegration.” That was one of those moments when you realize that a song you’d probably never see played live again was being performed right in front of you. Jesus. A second drummer came on to fill out the massive drum parts on the song and created one of the highlights of the night.
The group’s second encore started with “I Will Steal You Back” from their most recent album, Damage. The last four songs of the set were crowd pleasers that did rock, but almost seemed like a chore to play. I mean, how many times has Jimmy Eat World played “The Sweetness” live? After a quick look over to the stage manager and a realization that they had time for one more song, they shrugged and closed their set with “The Middle.”
Some of Jimmy Eat World’s material definitely falls within the realm of cheesy. It is pop-based music that explores well beyond the typical genre boundaries. Over the last 15 years, this band’s music has meant so much to me as a musician and music fan. Getting to see my favorite album of the group’s performed live after 10 years of enjoying its tracks was both gratifying and emotional. The group sounded absolutely perfect live, and I can’t wait to see them again.
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