Jimmy Eat World and Gin Blossoms electrify Super Bowl 2023 event

Talk about a banner day for local music.

The two biggest Valley-based rock bands of the past four decades on the same bill for the first time ever at a free show in a park?!

With the eyes of the world trained on metro Phoenix in the lead-up to Super Bowl 57 at State Farm Stadium?!

All while we’re left wondering how Jimmy Eat World and Gin Blossoms have never done a show together?!

I mean, sure, we know they come from different scenes and more than likely run in different circles, separated by some fraction of a generation that had to seem more insurmountable in 1993, when the members of Jimmy Eat World were just getting started and Gin Blossoms were running singles up the pop charts from “New Miserable Experience.” But it sure felt right at Margaret T. Hance Park on Thursday when the local bands joined forces for the Super Bowl Experience.

There was even a spirited singalong to “We are Young” by Fun., whose lead singer Nate Ruess rose to fame at the helm of another Valley band, the Format, when the DJ spun that song before Gin Blossoms hit the stage.

Did half the people singing “We Are Young” have no idea Ruess is local? Maybe. But it still felt like a win for local music.

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Gin Blossoms offset hits as timeless as ‘Hey Jealousy’ with lesser-known treasures that should’ve been hits

Gin Blossoms hit the ground running with “Follow You Down,” inspiring the first of several enthusiastic singalongs in a set that offset jangle-rocking hits as timeless as “Hey Jealousy,” “Til I Hear it From You” and “Found Out About You” with lesser-known treasures that frequently felt just as much like they should’ve been hits.

To say they rose to the occasion would be something of an understatement. There were times when they rocked with a reckless abandon that steered their portion of the concert’s more electrifying highlights much closer to classic garage-rock than you might expect if you only knew their music from the radio.

Gin Blossoms vocalist Robin Wilson performs at Margaret T. Hance Park for the Super Bowl Experience in Phoenix.

Scotty Johnson tore it up on lead guitar. And Robin Wilson was a truly entertaining presence, greeting the crowd with that same movie quote he’s been using for years about how they were here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and they’re all out of bubblegum.

He even introduced “Allison Road” as “the only song you’re gonna hear tonight that has a street in Tempe named after it.”

That much is true.

He also tipped his hat on several occasions to Jimmy Eat World, even referring to his own band as the Valley’s second-best — or words to that effect.

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Nearly every song Jimmy Eat World played felt Super Bowl big

As for Jimmy Eat World, they set the tone for their headlining set with the punkish intensity of “A Praise Chorus.”

From that opening triumph through such crowd-pleasing highlights as “Sweetness,” “Bleed American” and “Pain,” the singing in the crowd felt nearly as impassioned as Jim Adkins’ vocals.

Part of that was no doubt down to strength in numbers. But it also speaks to the intensity of the connection this music has managed to make with the people who love it on a much deeper emotional level than most.

And when they eased up on that energy, Adkins strumming acoustic guitar on “555” and “Hear You Me (May Angels Lead You In),” hit just as hard in their own understated way.

Highlights ranged from “Lucky Denver Mint” to the power-pop perfection of the John Cougar Mellencamp-referencing “The Authority Song” and last year’s “Something Loud,” a song that finds the singer wondering “Do you still feel part of something loud?” in response to a wave of nostalgia for the kindred spirits of his generation.

It’s a poignant rocker made all the more poignant by how much it manages to “still feel part of something loud,” as did much of their set.

Jimmy Eat World closed a powerful set with ‘The Middle’

They wisely held off on their biggest hit, “The Middle,” to bring the night to an exhilarating, feedback-laden finish, leaving no doubt as to how they’d managed to become the biggest rock act out of metro Phoenix since those guys that went on right before them.

At several points throughout the set, Adkins talked about how stoked he was to find that he’d grown up to share a bill with Gin Blossoms, a band he clearly views with much affection and respect.

Jimmy Eat World bassist Rich Burch and vocalist Jim Adkins performs at Margaret T. Hance Park for the Super Bowl Experience in Phoenix.

“We are honored to be on a bill with them,” he said. “Kid me can’t really believe it.”

By that point, I’d assume I wasn’t the only person who was hoping we were headed for some sort of local hero summit with Gin Blossoms crashing the stage for “The Middle.”

Oh well. There’s always the next time the Super Bowl brings them together.

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Jimmy Eat World Super Bowl Experience setlist

“A Praise Chorus””Sweetness””Big Casino””Bleed American” “Sure and Certain””555″”Work””Let it Happen””Pain””Lucky Denver Mint””Something Loud””The Authority Song””The Middle”

Gin Blossoms Super Bowl Experience setlist

“Follow You Down””Lost Horizons””Break””Hold Me Down””Face the Dark””Until I Fall Away””Still Some Room in Heaven””Found Out About You””Long Time Gone””Hands Are Tied””Allison Road””Hey Jealousy””Til I Hear It From You”

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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