Live Last Night: Jimmy Eat World

Emo would seemingly be the genre worst suited for the current performing-a-"classic"-album-in-its-entirety trend. After all, wouldn't it be too painful to dredge up all that heartbreak, not to mention all those embarrassing lyrics? But Jimmy Eat World successfully stared down its past at a sold-out 9:30 club on Tuesday night with a muscular -- but still, you know, sensitive -- performance of 1999's "Clarity," demonstrating why that album has achieved cult-favorite status among the black-wire-frame-glasses-wearing segment of the population.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

In the decade since "Clarity" was released, emo has become synonymous with eyeliner and over-the-top qualities exemplified by the absurdly long song titles favored by the likes of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. But back in the '90s it was more about just feeling kind of bummed out about girls and writing a song about it using crunchy guitars.

There were no theatrical elements to "A Sunday" or "Lucky Denver Mint," just some muted power chords leading into anthemic choruses highlighted by Jim Adkins' soaring vocals, which never crossed into the "painful wailing" territory that many of his peers inhabited.

The emo sentiment -- lonely, a little bitter, a little over-dramatic -- was best expressed in the chorus of "Blister" (the only song on which guitarist Tom Linton handled lead vocals): "How long would it take me to walk across the United States all alone?" It probably sounded better to Linton when he was 24, but the songs themselves didn't sound too dated thanks to a hook-heavy, if a bit formulaic approach.

None were as catchy as encores "The Middle" and "Sweetness," the quartet's two biggest hits, both from 2001's mainstream breakthrough "Bleed American." But the audience's surprisingly muted response to those radio smashes was proof that this was a gathering of diehards and their big moment came with "Clarity"-closing standout "Goodbye Sky Harbor," an epic aided by some electronic flourishes and atmospherics.


By David Malitz |  February 25, 2009; 3:41 PM ET Live Last Night
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