Last Night: Jimmy Eat World at Club Nokia

Last Night: Jimmy Eat World at Club Nokia

Photo by Andrew Youssef

Last Night: Jimmy Eat World, No Knife at Club Nokia, Los Angeles, March 5, 2009.

Better than: Hearing John Mayer do his song "Clarity."

Preemptive justification: Sure, we don't really cover LA shows here, but I haven't reviewed one since Jenny Lewis at the Orpheum back in October, so I think it's OK.

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"I still like Jimmy Eat World, even though it's not cool to like them anymore." That's what photographer Andrew Youssef said when we first talked about going to see Jimmy Eat World Thursday night at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. And he's right--but really, why isn't it cool to like Jimmy Eat World anymore, given that their latest release, 2007's Chase This Light, compared favorably to the rest of their appealingly catchy catalogue? Because of their association with the much-maligned, deader-than-disco "emo" genre? Because of the overwhelmingly chipper lyrics of their biggest mainstream hit, "The Middle"?

Not that current sentiment was that important, because this night, by design, was all about the past; the eighth of 10 shows in which the Mesa, Arizona band played their 1999 album Clarity--a favorite among fans and an important piece in the history of emo--in its entirety, the latest in the trend of artists performing whole, old albums (think Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation or Van Morrison playing Astral Weeks at the Hollywood Bowl last fall).

There's really only two ways to approach playing decade-old material. Either you can try and completely reinvent the songs, or produce faithful recreations, in hopes of illustrating how well the music holds up. Jimmy Eat World certainly went for the latter route, and not only did the songs indeed hold up, but it served to remind the mostly late 20s, early 30s crowd how influential the album was on many subsequently popular alternative rock acts, for better or worse--your Dashboard Confessionals, your Fall Out Boys, etc.

Whipping through the 13-song album (in order!) with minimal chatter, JEW inspired fervid nostalgia in the sold-out crowd, especially on songs like "Lucky Denver Mint," the closest thing on Clarity resembling a hit, and "Blister," the only track on the album song by guitarist Tom Linton--Clarity being the record where he ceded lead vocalist duties to current frontman Jim Adkins.

Just like the album, the first part of the set ended with "Goodbye Sky Harbor," a 16-minute emotional epic (though truncated here to approximately half that length) that led to a much shorter, "who are we trying to fool?" encore break. The band broke into both obscure numbers ("What Would I Say To You Now") and very recognizable ones ("The Middle," "Work," show closer "Sweetness").

Even Adkins seemed to realize that they're not really considered to be "cool" in today's musical climate. He complimented the LA fans during the show for sticking by them "whether we were cool or not. Most of the time not." But given the packed, devoted crowd he was playing to, hanging on every word of a 10-year-old album, coolness doesn't seem to be worth worrying about.

San Diego's No Knife, playing together for the first time in six years, opened the show. I missed the boat on No Knife the first time around, but they didn't show any obvious rust and sounded rather tight, though I obviously don't have any other frame of reference for them.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I was born in Mesa (though it's important to note that I never actually lived there, I was a Tempe guy all the way), so JEW are kind of hometown heroes; I've seen them, and their various members, perform many times before at many different sized venues (from arenas to tiny bars) and this show certainly helped to assuage some Arizona homesickness.

Random Detail: The venue is weird, like oddly ostentatious (bathroom and elevator attendants) but also with gaudy, Vegas-esque flashing lights that change color. Nice, but in that fake, soulless, antiseptic kind of way. Also, I saw a guy walk into the bathroom with a drink in both hands. Ew.

By the Way: Clarity has been reissued with a couple of bonus tracks, including a demo version of "Sweetness," which ended up on 2001's Bleed American (we're back to calling it that now, phew).

Setlist:
"Table for Glasses"
"Lucky Denver Mint"
"Your New Aesthetic"
"Believe in What You Want"
"A Sunday" Crush"
"12/23/95"
"Ten"
"Just Watch the Fireworks"
"For Me This Is Heaven"
"Blister"
"Clarity"
"Goodbye Sky Harbor"

Encore:
"What Would I Say to You Now"
"No Sensitivity"
"23"
"Work"
"Pain"
"The Middle"
"Sweetness"


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