Brave New World

No makeup. No gimmick. No shtick. But does Mesa's fast-rising Jimmy Eat World really stand a chance against the likes of Britney and the Backstreet Boys?

Taking a cue from its leader, the band rallies. Haden and Linton step up to help to mask Adkins' voice on the high notes his shredded larynx cannot reach; Lind and Burch stay sharp, keeping the band's engine humming smoothly.

There is no mention of Adkins' condition and few, if any, notice. The only concession is a purge of a few songs from the set list. They bring the night to a climax with "If You Don't, Don't" -- a wash of ringing guitars and piano glissandos. All things considered, it is the best of the week's three shows.

When it's over -- amid a hail of buoyant cheers -- Adkins radiates a beatific smile, an expression of relief more than anything else. Linton shakes his head again, this time in disbelief at his friend's mettle.

Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.

After taking his dressing room shot, Adkins gathers his things and slowly makes his way to the exit. The rest of the band has already bolted. Lind spends the rest of the evening with his wife; the next time he sees her will likely be in the delivery room. Burch and his girlfriend weave out, his arm draped over her shoulder. The ever-conscientious Linton stays behind to help Marino pack up.

The band has an early wake-up call. They leave for Portland in the morning, set to join blink-182 for a stadium tour of Canada. Adkins will stay behind for an extra day -- making a visit to the emergency room and getting some much-needed rest.

Arriving at his hotel, Adkins flops himself onto a bed, just in time to catch the opening of The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn.

The band's appearance is a star-making turn. Throughout, Kilborn pumps the group, comparing it to Nirvana, Black Flag and the Gin Blossoms. He turns the band's genre hybrid into a running gag. "These guys are emo-punks," he deadpans into the camera.

Then comes the band's performance. In the space of a few critical minutes they've exploded onto the pop landscape, playing to their largest audience ever, all but guaranteeing the Letterman spot and generating a healthy spike in album sales to boot.

Watching this unfold, you want to ask Adkins how it feels, what it's like -- but it's too late. The warm soothe of the vitamin cocktail has kicked in, he's already drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

Moving to turn off the lights and leave, you take a final look back.

Lying there, eyes closed, Adkins' placid face takes on a meaningful expression; a small smile forming at the corners of his mouth.

It's the Cheshire cat grin of guy who knows he's getting away with something really big.

Jimmy Eat World is scheduled to perform as part of That Damn Show on Sunday, September 30, at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria. Showtime is noon.

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