Jimmy Eat World are in a unique situation compared to most of their contemporaries: they achieved mainstream success in the early 2000s with a few hit singles, while still retaining much of their critical acclaim and "indie cred," establishing a strong cult following among music fans ever since. (The same can't be said for, say, their former Pop Disaster tourmates Green Day or blink-182, for example.) The band has been on a creative hot streak as of late, releasing the dark Integrity Blues in 2016, and now this year's just-as-great Surviving, which they promoted with a sweaty, energy-filled show at Sayreville, NJ's Starland Ballrom on Saturday (11/16).
Near the beginning of the show, frontman Jim Adkins told the excited audience, "We're going to be playing a bunch of new songs tonight, and we know how it sounds when bands only play new songs, so we'll play lots of old stuff, too." As promised, the band did play several new songs from Surviving, including the fiery title track, which kicked off their set. Afterwards, the band launched into the one-two punch of "Bleed American" and "A Praise Chorus," which set the bar high for the rest of the night. As I've heard the band experienced drama on their previous co-headlining tour with Third Eye Blind, it was good to see the band in such high spirits throughout this headlining show, playing to a nearly-packed, screaming audience, who made sure to sing it back as loud as humanly possible to each chorus.
Even as someone who already thought Surviving was a very solid album, I was still surprised at how massive these new songs sounded live, and how well they fit in among many of Jimmy Eat World's older favorites. "Recommit" was a song I forgot was on the new album, and was so impressed by it live I nearly mistook it for an older deep cut. Recent single "All The Way (Stay)" also fit snugly alongside classics like "Work" and "If You Don't, Don't," and album highlight "Criminal Energy" was one of the most exciting parts of the entire show, with the song's dueling guitar solos setting the stage on fire. The synthetic ballad "555" may have been an outlier on Surviving, but hearing its soaring, memorable chorus in a live setting made it clear it's still a Jimmy Eat World song, and a great one at that.
As far as older tracks go, the band played a good mix of songs from three of their most celebrated albums, Clarity, Bleed American, and Futures, including fan favorites "Your New Aesthetic," "Pain," and the tour debut of (a trimmed-down) "Goodbye Sky Harbor," among others. They also played early classic "Rockstar" off Static Prevails, which they started breaking out on this tour for the first time in 14 years. It was one of two songs with guitarist Tom Linton on lead vocals, alongside "Blister," his one lead vocal contribution on Clarity. The band ended their main set with the iconic "Sweetness," and the crowd filled the venues with all the "woah-oohhh"s in the world before Jimmy Eat World left the stage.
After a killer main set, the band turned up the heat for the encore, starting with the aforementioned "555" and then going into "Big Casino" off Chase This Light, with the central-NJ crowd adding extra oomph to the "I'm a New Jersey success story!" lyric (which was also the name of one of the drink specials at the show). And as overplayed as "The Middle" has gotten over the years, the band's use of it as the night's final song was a definite crowd-pleaser, proving it's still a great song which still rips hard live to this day.
Jimmy Eat World made sure to shout out opening act Pronoun throughout the show, whose punchy, melodic set served as the perfect setup for Jimmy Eat World. Pronoun, the project of Alyse Vellturo, frequently expressed her excitement for opening for one of her favorite bands, as she played several highlights off this year's personal I'll Show You Stronger.
You can view fan-shot video and Jimmy Eat World's setlist below. The band's US tour continues in Delaware on Monday (11/18), and they return to the NYC-area for the ALT 92.3 holiday show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in December with Vampire Weekend and more. They'll also head to Canada in 2020, and open for the reunited My Chemical Romance in New Zealand.
At their Poughkeepsie show the day before the NJ show, Jimmy Eat World covered Andrew WK's "Party Hard" (for the third time on this tour):
Setlist - Jimmy Eat World @ Starland Ballroom 11/16/19
A Praise Chorus
Hear You Me
Sure and Certain
Goodbye Sky Harbor
Your New Aesthetic
Chase This Light
All the Way (Stay)
If You Don't, Don't