Jimmy Eat World’s latest album “Damage” showcases a slightly mellowed version of the band’s power-pop/punk sound. But the Arizona quartet’s performance at Upstate Concert Hall Wednesday night was anything but mellow.
With help from keyboardist Robin Vining, the emocore pioneers and early 2000s radio darlings kicked up a snarling, defiant set of material spanning the band’s entire career before a packed house. In the live setting, the acoustic-based “Damage” songs came to life, crackling with an energy only hinted at on the recorded versions.
Even when lead vocalist and guitarist Jim Adkins broke out the acoustic guitar mid-set, the results were just as intense and exuberant as when he was shredding power chords and solos on his electric.
The band — also including guitarist/vocalist Tom Linton, drummer Zach Lind and bassist Rick Burch — took the stage shortly after 9 and wasted no time setting the evening’s energetic mood, barreling through “Sweetness” with the audience joining in on the verse’s “whoas.” Indeed, nearly every song turned into a singalong, even the new ones — “I Will Steal You Back,” the first single from “Damage” and the second song played, already seems to be a crowd favorite.
Adkins’ voice was in fine form throughout, hitting raw emotional highs on another new rocker, “Appreciation,” and a trio of songs from 2004’s “Futures” played early on, including the title track, “Kill” and “Work.” The snarling “Your New Aesthetic” was another highlight, with Adkins turning in his most aggressive performance of the evening.
But while the lyrics and vocal delivery are always at the forefront with this band, the real joy in this set came from watching and hearing Adkins and Linton work together to create massive walls of guitars, from the thick chords of “Chase This Light” to “No, Never,” with pensive, winding verses giving way to an explosive chorus.
For the third time on this tour, the band covered Taylor Swift’s hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which wasn’t as weird as it may sound on paper — many of Jimmy Eat World’s songs cover the same heartbroken territory. Adkins and company turned the song’s hook into a thundering punk chord progression, prompting more than a few chuckles, but also plenty of head-banging and another spirited singalong.
Things built to a feverish climax with a passel of older classics to end the main set, including the early hit “Lucky Denver Mint” and “Goodbye Sky Harbor,” both from 1999’s “Clarity.” Two songs from 2001’s “Bleed American,” the inspirational “A Praise Chorus” and the seething title track, pumped the energy up even more, leaving the crowd spent, but thoroughly satisfied.
Pennsylvania’s Balance and Composure opened the show at 8 with a half-hour, five-song set of massive pop-punk that bore more than a passing resemblance to the headliner. Lead singer and one of three guitarists, Jonathan Simmons, provided the focal point, half-singing, half-growling into his microphone in between slamming around the stage in unison with his four other bandmates. The band’s grinding grooves and energy made for a perfect warm-up to the main attraction.