Jimmy Eat World / Reubens Accomplice @ NYC 2/23

March 24, 2009

To commemorate their third full-length album, released exactly ten years ago on February 23, 1999, Jimmy Eat World embarked on a ten city tour across America, playing Clarity in full at each stop. The first night occured in New York City with support from state-mates Reubens Accomplice. Jimmy Eat World’s sound has evolved slowly over the sixteen years they have been together, but the Mark Trombino-produced Clarity marked an enormous change for the band, and not only because Jim Adkins took over lead vocal duties.

A quartet from Phoenix, Reubens Accomplice looks good on paper: tours with excellent bands (such as The Format, The Weakerthans, and of course, Jimmy Eat World), a pedal steel guitar, a couple of competent singers, and a handful of musicians who effortlessly switch between instruments on stage. Unfortunately, the band never executes as well as they should–the songs are uninteresting and bland. The band played a fairly brief set, offering nothing memorable by the night’s end

Jimmy Eat World began their set with the haunting melody of “Table for Glasses”. Drummer Zach Lind provided the backbone for song, and indeed the entire evening, combining live percussion with the album’s essential samples. Frontman Jim Adkins faithfully sang the album in its original demeanor, which–true to the album’s mood–kept things somewhat somber until “Your New Aesthetic”, which suddenly found the crowd on their feet, singing along: “Make them open the request line, and let selection kill the old, take back the radio!”

Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins.

Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins.

The bouncy, punk-pop “Believe In What You Want” kept things moving until the sobering “A Sunday” once again moved the show into its somber tone. As it does on the album, Tom Linton’s cutting guitar on “Crush” once again picks things up and keeps the crowd moving untilĀ  “12/23″95” slows things down again. These drastic changes in mood define Clarity, and indeed Jimmy Eat World, experts at crafting both fast-paced and slower songs. “Just Watch the Fireworks” showcases another defining aspect of the album: Adkins’s ability to tell a story with just a few words and expand them across an entire song. At over seven minutes, the song’s few lyrics are constantly repeated but the song never drags; the simple repetition is quite powerful.

The Clarity set ended beautifully with eight minutes of “Goodbye Sky Harbor”. The band departed briefly, returning to perform an encore that consisted of b-sides from the Clarity era and more recent singles. The setlist, in its entirety:

Table for Glasses
Lucky Denver Mint
Your New Aesthetic
Believe in What You Want
A Sunday
Just Watch the Fireworks
For Me This is Heaven
Goodbye Sky Harbor
What Would I Say to You Now
No Sensitivity
The Middle

Surprisingly, nothing from the band’s latest album, Chase this Light, was performed during the encore, but hits like “The Middle” captured the entire crowd. Though billed as a Clarity tour, much of the crowd still knew little from the album aside from warmly-received singles “Lucky DenverĀ  Mint” and “Blister”, with sing-alongs eventually engaging even the casual Jimmy Eat World fan who was experiencing the album for the first time. The band departed with “Sweetness”–a song that dates back to the Clarity-era, despite not seeing an official release until 2001–a defining Jimmy Eat World song that exemplifies their ability to write big choruses.

Executing close to perfection for an hour and a half, Jimmy Eat World showcased why they are one of the strongest pop-rock bands of the last decade. The tour’s last stop in Arizona will be released as a live album on April 7; if you missed this tour, do not hesitate to pick it up and experience Jimmy Eat World at one of their finest hours.