The average age of the audience is seventeen and the stench of hormones is heavy. Men in their mid-thirties who shouldn’t be here boozily sway amongst them, chanting “Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” Tonight: Jimmy Eat World play their postponed set at Leeds o2 Academy.
Support is provided by southern pop-rockers We Are The Ocean who, in their first song, tell the audience to “let it all go”. Let go of what? Maybe those older men in the crowd will know. After some serious stamping and air-kicking, the band take a break to insult the headliners: “it’s such an honour to open for Jimmy Eat World…we used to listen to those songs when we were younger”.
(We Are The Ocean [pictured above] and Jimmy Eat World)
Jimmy Eat World take the stage to impatient applause and punch into their new song “I Will Steal You Back”. Their rumbling 16th note textures feel deeper in the Academy than heard from the studio. Meanwhile, “My Best Theory” and “The Authority Song” spark a tame circle pit worthy of a Laura Marling concert.
But it soon escalates into a fist-fight. Lead singer Jim Adkins halts the band half-way through “Your New Aesthetic” with a quick outward extension of his arms and, in his fuzziest American tone, yells: “Cut it out you guys!”
Seven security guards later and the band resume their set, launching into “Lucky Denver Mint”. It’s as if this was written for the fighting pair: “you’re not bigger than this, not better, why can’t you learn?”
The setlist takes the predictable dive into slower numbers and cameraphones swing in the air for the sobering-then-rousing “Hear You Me”.
The pop-rock four-piece continue to roll off their older songs, devoting little time to the album they are on tour to promote. In a Rolling Stone interview preceding the June release of “Damage”, they described it as an “adult break-up record”. Given this and the demographic in attendance, perhaps the exclusion of these songs shouldn’t be surprising. However, it’s disappointing that they have omitted even the more upbeat of their recent numbers such a “Lean” or “How’d You Have Me?” for tonight’s performance.
Jimmy Eat World are not necessarily recognised for their lyrical prowess: they are sincere and emotive at best, obvious and vague at worst. “Heart Is Hard To Find”, “Always Be” and “Book Of Love” loosely ponders loss of emotion – “are these feelings ever coming back?” – whilst in “Damage”, Adkins crudely complains: “I hate the way I feel, but I don’t think I can change”.
However, the band put on a passionate, eager display that does more than enough to offset these imperfections. Adkins’ Arizona swagger is impressive as he leads the band through their heavier, more popular material towards the end of the set. “A Praise Chorus” and “Sweetness” allows him to release his remaining inner anxiety for this evening. Adkins emphatically fingers the melodies, swinging his guitar about the stage as sweat spits from the tips of his hair.
The house lights turn on for the interval before the encore and the composition of the crowd is different to what was first assumed: it’s significantly older. Indeed, as the band take the stage for the last time, it becomes clear that the appeal of Jimmy Eat World varies substantially. Some are younger fans of their brand of emotive pop-rock, some really are here to “let go”, and others are here to observe the spectacle of a married man approaching his forties sing songs about teenage heartbreak.
Jimmy Eat World return to the UK for shows in Bournemouth, Nottingham and London in early November.
Words & Images: Leo Garbutt
I Will Steal You Back
My Best Theory
The Authority Song
Your New Aesthetic
Lucky Denver Mint
Hear You Me
For Me This Is Heaven (Jim Adkins solo acoustic)
Heart Is Hard to Find
Let It Happen
Book of Love
Goodbye Sky Harbor
A Praise Chorus
Chase This Light