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Jimmy Eat World & We Were Promised Jetpacks - Live 10/9/10
In terms of concerts, there's little better than seeing two acts that you'd go to on their own on the same ticket. Joe Satriani (well, there was a period when I would have seen him on his own) and Dream Theater, Buckethead, Incubus, and Primus, Russian Circles and Mono, or, in this case, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Jimmy Eat World. It makes the hour and a half trip that much more bearable, in addition to the ticket prices and everything else. You won't need to sit through a shitty band, you get a few solid hours of music, and the world is, as a whole, a better place.

The only real downside is that the crowd isn't really there to see the opening act. When I saw Jetpacks live, headlining their own tour in the biggest dive of a bar I may well have ever been, the crowd was all about it. They were there specifically to see the Scots rock out, and they did. The band fed off of the crowd, and vice versa. During the recorded version of the song Moving Clocks Run Slow, there's a tiny little gap in the music between the second verse and second chorus where you can hear someone, far from a mic and low in the mix, give a classic rock and roll "Whoo!" When that moment arrived at the Jetpacks concert that they headlined, everyone in the crowd echoed that cry. It's one of the coolest and most memorable single moments I've seen at a show in years. At the Jimmy Eat World show that Jetpacks opened for, I think I was the only one who did it.

Regardless, the Jetpacks were well placed in front of JEW, and it's gratifying to see them go from playing in front of sixty people in a shitty bar to in front of two thousand people at a packed hall. They rocked it pretty hard, sparing no time in whipping through the better part of These Four Walls, as well as three songs from the new EP. Their opening song, something from the EP (which I don't have), was pretty killer, as was my favorite track of theirs, Quiet Little Voices. It my other favorite, It's Thunder and It's Lightning that was the highlight of their forty minute set, though. Front man Adam Thompson played the intro to the song by himself, slow and almost mournful, making a sort of ballad out of it. Listening to the song again, it's not that much of a stretch, really. It made the burst into distorted rock all the more powerful. I have a feeling they made some new fans that evening.

My only complaint about their set - or the show in general, really - can be directed at both bands. The bass was loud, the drums were loud (though the cymbals weren't), the vocals were fairly clear, but the guitars were muddy and low in the mix. I could hear them fine on their own, but as soon as the rest of the band joined, they all but disappeared. I'm starting to wonder if I've become some sort of mixing snob, as the mix has been my primary complaint about the last handful of shows I can remember. It's just a bit difficult to enjoy the music when a crucial part of it is missing.

Aside from that, Jimmy Eat World was as solid as Jetpacks. The bands fit well together live, and share the same strengths and shortcomings live. Both are high energy bands with succinct songs, and there are catchy choruses and plenty of "oooh ohhh oh oh"s that the crowd can sing along to, which means that everyone is into it the whole time, but there's little room for the band to really bring anything to the music that isn't there in the studio version. Bands like Jetpacks and JEW are almost reliably great in concert, but seeing them live will never be the revelation that seeing Phish live is, or seeing Dream Theater live is.

The one thing JEW does have going for them live is actually something you'd really not expect. Namely: their set lists are varied and unpredictable. Given that they have a clear set of "hits", I really would have figured that they'd stay to those and just throw in a few fan favorites from older material. Not so. I've only seen them twice, but with the exception The Middle and perhaps The Sweetness (my memory on that one isn't clear), they did not play a single song this time around that they played last time around. And the last time I saw them, lead singer Jim Adkins played a solo acoustic version of that song, as opposed to the full-band version we got this time. They pull from old material and new material alike, they don't heavily favor the new album, and they even threw in a slightly shortened - but still ten minute long - version of Goodbye Sky Harbor, complete with looped vocals and bells and everything else. I must admit, I did not see that coming.

The crowd was a defining factor as much as the band was this time, due in no small part to the venue being on the campus of OSU - and on a game day, no less - one of the nation's largest universities. There was barely elbow room, there were tons of crowd surfers, and best of all, I saw one crowd surfing man go up, his arms in the air, his torso in their air, and then his feet in the air, one of them clad in a cast boot. Jimmy Eat World provided us with a solid hour and a forty-five minutes quality rock before the audience left the Newport Theater to be swallowed up by the larger crowd outside.


 
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