Jimmy Eat World + High Speed Scene + Gratitude @ The Spectrum

By Omar Goodness - Hooked on Sonics - 11/20/2004

The last time I saw Jimmy Eat World live was at a packed-like-sardines sold-out show at the Rainbow a few years back, right before Bleed American blew up. A few months after that they played a show at Metropolis and the amount they’ve grown, now playing a sold-out show at Le Spectrum, reminded me of how Thursday grew over the years (who themselves played Rainbow a few years back and came back to play a packed Spectrum). After their platinum success of Bleed American, the band returned to Montreal to promote their great new album Futures, which, debuting at #6 on the Billboard Top-200, is proving to be quite a success too.

Arriving late, I missed openers High Speed Scene and just missed Mr. Onelinedrawing himself, Jonah Matranga’s new band Gratitude. Former lead singer of emo-popsters New End Original and the influential post hardcore outfit Far, Matranga’s new band (recently inked to Atlantic records) was apparently so-so, and featured the hilariously over-the-top dramatics of Matranga. Yes, I regret missing that, but I did however manage to catch the fine house music being played before Jimmy Eat World came on (Guided by Voices, Hot Snakes, Pinback…goooood times).

The house lights then went dark, and the band took the stage. Drummer Zach Lind started the set off with a pounding snare beat while the rest of the band coaxed shards of noise from their instruments as bright white spotlights flashed out into the crowd. In time with the drums, guitaristsTom Linton, hunched over at stage left, and Jim Adkins, spazzing out at centre stage, launched into the opening riff of Bleed American's title track, much to the delight of the kids up front, who were now completely losing it.

Following a solid version of Bleed American‘s “Authority Song” and Futures’ title track, Linton, who I think has a stronger voice than Adkins, took up lead vocals for Clarity's “Blister”, much to the crowd’s delight. Having not contributed a single song to Bleed American and this year’s Futures, Linton really has to get back in the songwriting game, as his songs are some of the bands best.

"If You Don't, Don't", one of Bleed American's weaker songs, came across a lot better in the live setting. Adkins had his guitar ran thru a smooth phaser effect while Linton provided a heavy palm muted rhythm guitar line that gave the song some needed bite. But the true surprise of the evening was the fantastic transition from the atmospheric "Drugs or Me" (performed behind a backdrop of blue and purple lights) into the Guided by Voices-style power pop of "The World you Love."

Neither are Futures’ strongest tracks, but their performance, especially that of "The World You Love", which included an improvised bridge of pummelled octave chords that almost started sounding like a noise-pop version of the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance" (how cool would that have been?), was the highlight of the evening. But while some songs did translate better, not all did. "Kill", a catchy, albeit weak and weepy song off of Futures came off as just that. Also, Clarity's should-have-been-hit "Lucky Denver Mint" was performed solidly, but lacked the zeal and punch of the recorded version.

Futures‘ “Nothingwrong" saw them truly hit their stride with Lind pounding out the song’s fantastic beat while Adkins and Linton traded vocals during the call and response verse. Futures‘ soon to be second single, ”Work", was also performed perfectly, with Linton singing the backing vocals that Liz Phair performs on the album version. Clarity‘s fan favourite, “For Me This Is Heaven”, had the kids pulling out lighters (I think they only do this in Québec still, heheheh) and singing along, but it was their hit single “The Middle” that provided the rush of kids to the floor. Complete with Adkins' improvised finger-tapped solo, it was the song that truly started packing in the floor, and had the table dancing* couple sitting in front of me flipping out in the aisle (*for a proper description of “table-dancing”, watch re-runs of The Cosby Show).

“Thinking, That's All” was a personal highlight of the show (it's my favourite song by them), but sadly, it was the only song played from their fantastic '96 CD Static Prevails, and Adkins, as he has in a while, sang rather than screamed his vocals or simply provided harmony to Linton's vocals during the chorus which somewhat stole away the song’s urgency. I guess they’re too old for the hootin’ n’ hollerin’ now. The band then indulged in their art rock tendencies with the My Bloody Valentine-esque wall of white noise preceding the sequencer heavy intro to "Get it Faster." The lights went dark except a sole white light on Adkins as he sang the intro before the band kicked in at full throttle, racing along up until the bridge where Adkins and Linton locked in and played the lead in-synch together flawlessly.

Nearing the end of the set, Adkins promised “some older songs” and the band kicked into Clarity‘s "Goodbye Sky Harbor." The eighteen-minute long epic was cut down to about seven minutes, as they’ve been doing in the live setting for a few years, and ended on more of a rock edge then the album’s more ethereal version. While the eighteen-minute album version is pure genius, the live version itself was also fantastic. Crowd favourite "No Sensitivity" was then resurrected from their split EP with Aussie pop punks Jebediah to much singing along also (and had some shaved headed dude on the floor doing some seriously smooth air-guitar action - he was feeling it, yo). They then closed out the set with "A Praise Chorus", with Linton once again picking up the slack and singing the vocals ex-Promise Ring frontman Davey Von Boehlen sings on the recorded version that appears on Bleed American.

Back for the encore, they started into a loose version of Rammstein's "Du Hast", much to the crowd's enjoyment, before launching into "Pain" and closing the set off with a rousing rendition of long-time fan favourite and show-closer "Sweetness," a song that had been floating around the internet long before it's actual release on Bleed American.

I guess the main complaint one has about Jimmy Eat World live is their lack of energy. The performance is solid, tight, and the songs come across great live, but it's still missing something. Most of the time, aside from Adkins bouncing around and his ridiculous dance moves while he sings, the band members practically don't move. Bass player Rick Burch stayed steady on stage right, and contributed backing vocals here and there but was practically invisible. Linton is usually solid as a rock unless he's huddled over his guitar, scraping out sounds, and Lind, who is a great drummer, looks extremely bored when he has to play the more simplistic straight ahead 4/4 beats of most of their songs. You get the feeling that they're very close to putting on a perfect live show, but with the lack of vibrancy they fall short.

Nonetheless, a fun evening and a good show from one of the best rock bands out there.

Omar co-hosts HOOKED on SONiCs every Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm. Check out the HOOKED on SONiCs site for other reviews, yo.