Arizonans often don't have much to root for. Most of the time our state is an afterthought, or the butt of jokes about immigration policy and home foreclosures. For many years, the Cardinals, the Sun Devils, and the Wildcats have been mediocre. We're lucky to still have a hockey team.
Occasionally, there is a bright spot. Something to swell our hearts with pride. The Cardinals go to the Superbowl, Jordin Sparks wins American Idol, or U of A wins an NCAA basketball title. And then there's Jimmy Eat World.
On the heels of their September release, Invented, Jimmy Eat World played to a sold out crowd at the Marquee Theatre Saturday night. Most people in the crowd seemed like the sort who were in high school when the Mesa band gained mainstream success, and almost all of them were singing along to every word that emerged from Jim Adkins' lips.
In a way, it was like going back to a high school reunion. You know who everyone is and though the weight and hairlines may have shifted a bit, you sit around telling the same fond, familiar stories. That was last night; while both the crowd and the audience have aged, they're the same people they were when the band first gained mainstream fame. The band indulged the audience with all the old hits, and the crowd lapped it up, jumping around with hands in the air and singing more loudly than Adkins.
In celebration of Halloween, the stage was decorated like a graveyard with cobwebs and tombs, and the band members all donned costumes (werewolf, skeleton, zombie, and the grim reaper), punctuating the moments between songs with evil laughs and jokes about how difficult it was to perform in masks.
"I have a newfound respect for Slipknot," Adkins admitted after the third song, when he removed his own mask for the remainder of the show.
Jimmy Eat World has been performing together since 1993, so by 2010, they have their live shows down pat. Whether you're a fan of their music or not, they can be counted on to put on a hell of a performance. They are a well-oiled machine, with crisp vocals, precise playing, and a connection with the fans that can't be learned or faked over the years, and they were clearly getting as much from the performance as the audience was.
For most of their North American tour, Jimmy Eat World was supported by Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks, but on the last stop they made before heading on a European tour next week, the band gave the opening spot to Phoenix's Snake! Snake! Snakes!, almost as though passing the torch and crowning a new local band for Arizona fans to support.
The set was a lot of what a fan would expect to hear, though not really peppered with their über-hits throughout but rather as the set's bookends. One of the first songs they played was "Bleed American," but they didn't play "The Middle" or "Sweetness" until the encore, where they closed the show out with the two tracks. They kept the crowd energized and entertained for most of the performance, and even held a Halloween costume contest for the people in attendance.
I ran into another musically inclined friend of mine there, and she summed it up as well as anyone could by saying, "I never think, 'hey, I think I'll listen to my Jimmy Eat World albums,' but they're really great live, and it's nice to revisit them sometimes." Indeed, Jimmy Eat World represents a moment in time for the fans who in attendance. Just like high school, you can't go back, but it's fun to reminisce once in a while, and last night was a welcomed reunion.
Last Night: Jimmy Eat World at Marquee Theatre in Tempe
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Personal Bias: Last night wasn't the only return of a prodigal Arizona band. The Format alum Nate Ruess was playing with his new band, fun., at the Nile in Mesa, but the show was sold out, and that was the one I wanted to see. I really only know Jimmy Eat World peripherally, from my college days when I heard them on the radio.
The Crowd: Lots of people in their late 20s and early 30s who don't typically go to many concerts. Lots of visible tattoos, and lots of people who could definitely have kicked my ass. And those were the women.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Yea, they played the three songs I knew!"
Random Notebook Dump: Not my style, but the hooks are catchy and the beat is good. I can see why people like it and why they've done so well for themselves.