Night one of The Buzz‘s holiday shows went off smoothly in the beautiful Midland Theater last night, dampened only by the disappointing absence of Sleigh Bells (1). I love on-time sets and reasonable stage changes.
Jimmy Eat World pulled their set from their whole six-album catalog, smartly bookending it with hits from “Bleed American” and playing a track each from “Static Prevails” and “Clarity.” (I would have voted for a couple more “Clarity” cuts, myself, but no complaints!) We cheered for up-tempo hits from “Futures” and “Chase the Light,” and the crowd even seemed to know and respond to several tunes from this year’s “Invented.” The band was looser than I expected – this being my first Jimmy show, I’d imagined them as a seamless pop production – and it worked well for them, demonstrating some personality that the airless back half of their discography lacks.
These guys are still have a sense of semi-awkward seventeen-year-old-ness about them: Jim kicking around stage and swinging his head around, Tom stoically strumming away at his SG (downstroke 8th notes are their stock in trade, almost to a fault, if they weren’t so influential), Zach’s short-sleeved plaid. It was very humanizing; I like them more, having felt that. An extra garage-y take on “Authority Song,” “by request” according to Jim, added to the impression; it looked like it had been a long time since the band played it, not really finding their way until the second verse, and it was fun to see for precisely that.
The show has left me listening to “Clarity” last night and “Bleed American” this morning, which I always think is one of the best things a concert can do.
Openers Free Energy, who I came in inclined to like, were much more classic guitar rock than their James Murphy-produced dance-rock record ever indicates. They had heart, though, and seemed to be having a good time. (The kick/bass mix was a problem all night; giant, thunderous kick drum drowning out the bass. Unfortunately, all four bands’ bassists might as well have stayed home. The Midland should address that immediately.)
Sleigh Bell-replacements Cage the Elephant were much better 20 years ago, when it was called the Pixies. CA (2) pointed out the singer performed an amazing feat of balance, standing on the crowd’s upstretched hands during the last tune, to which I replied that when that’s the best thing about a band, it’s time to write some songs.. Dirty Head was fascinating as an argument for the perenniality of the stoned white guy reggae/rap thing, which I’d assumed peaked about 1995 with 311 (3); my mistake is no credit to their jams, though.
(1) Due to health issues. Get well!
(2) Happy birthday!
(3) UPDATE: I’m afraid 311 came off much worse than I meant here. My point was that 311 hit on something cool in 1995, and it’s weird to me that what they did, which is very much of that particular time and place for me, is still resonating among the kids these days (4).
(4) This still doesn’t make Dirty Head any better, though.