Jimmy Eat World completely bleed American, which might be why their Canadian visit to the Kool Haus (their second Toronto stop in the last couple of months) remained fairly conservative.
Beginning as emo-pop cult favourites and now mid-deep in their crossover to sweaty arena-style power-pop, the Arizona quartet continues to churn out dorm-ready tales of teenage melodrama. Instead of pseudo-edgy, bleach-blonde glamourizing of teenhood tribulations, however, Jimmy Eat World present a more ragged – if no less romanticized – portrait of the American Eagle set: less cocaine, more beer stains; less OC, more One Tree Hill.
Yet despite being mostly wholesome (vocalist Jim Adkins took on a fatherly role for his early stage banter, encouraging the safety of the trucker-hatted crowd-surfers) the boys know how to put on a bells-and-whistles-free rock show – largely made up of songs from their new disc, Futures, and its predecessor, Bleed American – that displayed moments of might.
There are no banners, gimmicky lasers or costumes at a Jimmy Eat World concert; the band employed only some coloured track lighting and a bit of smoke machine. The real smoke, however, came when the band hit their stride and pulled off searing, punk-inflected workouts like “Bleed American” or new cuts like “Pain” and “Nothing Wrong,” the latter of which was a stormy metal number rounded out with an almighty guitar solo. Yes, Jimmy Eat World are working to become the emo Bon Jovi, though Adkins’ now longer hair suggests remaining loyalty to The Juliana Theory.
Unlike the Theory, though, Jimmy have made the transition to full-out rock band a bit easier and Adkins is best when he’s behind a guitar, attacking steam engine-powered songs like Clarity’s “Lucky Denver Mint,” Bleed American’s “Get It Faster” and Futures’ anthemic “Work.” Happy-go-lucky power-pop tunes, like “The Authority Song” and their big radio hit, “The Middle” (which unsurprisingly received the best response of the night), also allowed him to loosen up and show off the band’s sun-lit harmonies.
It’s when Adkins and his band push too hard for poignancy – as on snooze-inducing numbers like “For Me This Is Heaven” – or no-holds-barred rock posing that they falter. During “No Sensitivity,” a song whose “I want my kisses back” line isn’t nearly as bitingly funny as Ben Folds’ “give me my money back,” Adkins unleashed a cringe-inducing falsetto that could have easily been mistaken as Jimmy trying to imitate their rock heroes instead of being one.
Jimmy Eat World might not be ready to eat the world just yet, but they do have a future and it could be bloody awesome if they refrain from angst-y, underage heartbreak. Hearts worn on sleeves are ok, but hearts littered on topsoil are even better.