Top Jimmy

An oddball arena-rock triple bill showcases Mesa's returning heroes

Drawing on D classics like "Tribute" and the compassionate "Fuck Her Gently," Black and Gass won over much of the Weezer-dominated audience. But when they announced that they were down to their last song, the loud cheers suggested that their truncated 40-minute set was still too long for the unconverted.

One unequivocal cheer that Tenacious D got came when Gass acknowledged the show openers, and returning local heroes: "How about those Jimmy Eat World guys? The more I tutor them, the better they get. They're coming along."

Gass' compliment returned the favor of Jimmy Eat World front man Jim Adkins' similarly irreverent Tenacious D recommendation: "The world's greatest band, Tenacious D, is up next. How's that, Kyle? Is that good?"

Jimmy Eat World: Delivering a tight and all-too-short set at America West.
Kevin Scanlon
Jimmy Eat World: Delivering a tight and all-too-short set at America West.

It was a rare bit of levity in a dead-serious, all-too-short (barely more than 30 minutes) set that offered further proof that this Mesa band is a live powerhouse. Jimmy Eat World long ago transcended the limitations of their emo-punk roots, and, like Weezer, they've established themselves as, basically, a loud pop band -- a collective with an unerring feel for the rules of verse-chorus-verse.

But Jimmy Eat World clings to the purposely naive passion that informed their earliest efforts, an aesthetic they drew from their shared underground heroes. With Adkins bounding around the stage like he's going to implode unless he gets that next line out, Jimmy Eat World provided the night with what it wouldn't have had otherwise: a sense of urgency. Drawing heavily on their third, and latest, major-label album, Bleed American (retitled Jimmy Eat World in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks), the group -- bolstered by the sweet harmonies and subtle keyboards of Rachel Haden -- managed the considerable trick of making radio-ready favorites like "The Middle" (which debuted on MTV's TRL four weeks ago), "Sweetness" and "Blister" sound fresh and spontaneous without changing a note from their solid studio recordings.

Part of the peculiarly local thrill of Jimmy Eat World's performance was surely the rare sight of a Valley band playing an arena show in front of the home folks. But beyond that, they stood out because they were the lone source of the "serious shit" that Tenacious D promised would go down Saturday night.

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