Last night (April 29), the double-stacked bill of Jimmy Eat World and Beach Slang played to a sold-out crowd in a venue that was probably too small for either band. Not surprisingly, Jimmy Eat World fans were especially amped to see the veteran emo-rockers, given that they hadn't played in Edmonton since 2011.
After a delayed start time due to the large line of people still waiting to get inside, Philadelphia quartet Beach Slang proclaimed, "We're here to punch you in the heart!" and launched into a ferocious, energetic set that started with "Noisy Heaven" from their acclaimed 2015 debut album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us.
Spirited and exuberant frontman James Alex, who was decked out in a bowtie and tight sport jacket, allowed time for some jokes, playing tongue-in-cheek riffs of Santana and Rob Thomas's "Smooth" and acknowledging his celebrity look-alikes ("Billy Corgan if he was happy and had hair"), before going into full version of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" After a genuine "Let's go, Oilers" chant, Beach Slang finished with the quick-paced chaos of "Atom Bomb" from last year's A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings.
In support of their ninth full-length record, Integrity Blues, Jimmy Eat World came out onstage and performed blissful opening track, "You with Me" before going into the squealing guitar chords of "Bleed American" from their 2001 album of the same name. From that point, it became a massive sing-along of material spanning across their entire discography.
Frontman Jim Adkins doesn't say a whole lot, but he doesn't need to. On the heartbreaker "Hear You Me," the crowd swayed back and forth, taking in the emotional weight of the repeated line: "May angels lead you in." From the slow burn of these delicate songs to the more wrought and robust numbers like "A Praise Chorus," Jimmy Eat World sounded bold and powerful without being obnoxiously loud.
Later on, guitarist and former lead vocalist Tom Linton took the reins on emo classic "Blister" from their seminal 1999 album, Clarity. The nostalgic youthful energy kept rolling as Adkins channelled his inner 20s for "For Me This Is Heaven" from the same record.
The final three songs of the main part of the set featured a trifecta of some of their hookiest material from 2004's Futures. The slow and agonizing "23" lead into the hopeful drive of "Work," which seamlessly surged into the most electrifying song of the night, "Pain".
Jimmy Eat World saved their mega-hits for last, kicking off the encore with highly recognizable "The Middle", following by the newest single "Sure and Certain," which may be their best song in recent memory. Everyone's voices strained for one more song, as the band finished off with a chorus of whoa-oh's from "Sweetness," bringing the 25-song, two-hour set to a jubilant end.
While casual fans definitely know the band from those iconic late-set songs, hardcore fans at the show still knew all the words from Bleed American by heart after all these years, and luckily for them, much of the set was devoted to the landmark album.
Jimmy Eat World may have mostly fell out of the mainstream in the last decade, but the band seems content with where they are. The singles from their past four albums have had fleeting radio play at best, but in a live setting, they really hold their own against the band's better-known work.
Despite a dip in the Jimmy Eat World's pop culture presence, Adkins has proven himself a consistent songwriter and when it comes to performing for fans, he and his band have figured out the perfect balance between old favourites and new material. Few bands can retain that kind of respect over a quarter century, holding their dearest fans in such high regard.
The crowd in Edmonton couldn't have asked for a more special Saturday night.