LIVE: Jimmy Eat World @ O2 Forum Kentish Town, London

By Rob Barbour

Jimmy Eat World don’t really do bad gigs. Not anymore. Fifteen years of persistent touring since the release of global-breakout record Bleed American has transformed the Arizona quartet into an enviably polished live proposition. Really, your opinion of their shows in 2016 will be informed by two things: sound and setlist. And tonight the sound is so perfectly crisp that, were this a lesser band, one might be suspicious.

The debate over which of JEW’s astonishing, genre-defining 1999-2004 triple album run of Clarity, Bleed American and Futures is ‘best’ has been done to death and isn’t worth retreading here. Besides, the answer is obviously Clarity. But Jimmy Eat World are at a point in their careers now where previous staples are having to make way for the new material they’re actually promoting and, while we know there’s little uglier in the world of rock music fandom than naked entitlement, the lack of undeniable anthems like ‘Blister’, ‘Futures’ and ‘The Authority Song’ rankles a little.

On the other hand: many bands never write a single song as good as any one of those; imagine being so good that you can afford to ditch all three. They’re binned, of course, to make room for tracks from Integrity Blues. And the results are broadly positive: ‘That’s Not Me’ is confirmed as a bona fide anthem, and is likely to remain in the set for many years to come. Ditto ‘Get Right’, tonight’s opening song and one whose pounding, swaggering riffs impress all over again when played live. We’re still not convinced about ‘Pass The Baby’ as a song, but that triple-guitar Rage Against The Machine conclusion absolutely slays when it’s being hammered out in front of you.

Rarely showy on record, JEW consistently provide perfect examples of playing for the song and as a result their musicianship never ceases to impress. Particularly frontman Jim Adkins, who’s evolved into something of a guitar hero. And while we’re sure he’s said something similar to every city on this tour, there’s something about Adkins’ adorable stage presence which renders his assertion about the quality of London’s crowds sincere, rather than cloying.

On reflection, bitching about a Jimmy Eat World setlist is like throwing a tantrum because your 1934 Chateau Lafite Rothschild isn’t at perfect room temperature. Especially on a night when we get an airing of ‘No Sensitivity’, a reminder that even the songs they reject from their albums would be hit singles for many other acts. Quite simply one of the best bands we have. Cherish them.