Third Eye Blind semi-charms crowd

When word got out that Third Eye Blind would be performing, the news was met with a variety of reactions. Sentiments ranged from “It’s about time we got a band that sings about things I can relate to, like crystal meth and domestic abuse,” to “Leave it to Williams to choose a band that reached the height of its popularity when I was in eighth grade.” Following a nice opening set from new Chicago-based pop-alternative band Absentstar, Third Eye Blind delivered a performance that exceeded expectations on Sunday at Towne Field House.

While some had reservations that we wouldn’t get to hear the classics, the band opened up with many middle-school favorites, including “Wounded,” “Faster” and “Graduate” before lead singer Stephan Jenkins turned to the audience and said, “Okay, can we play a couple new ones now?” The audience gave a mixed reaction, and the new songs – including such dubious titles as “Non-Dairy Creamer” (which, when taken in the context of the Third Eye Blind songbook, may be taken to the full extent of its sexual implication) – lacked the youthful energy and guitar riffs that contributed to the popularity of the band’s earlier hits.

Despite some skeptics’ opinion to the contrary, the members of Third Eye Blind do not yet qualify for the senior discount. Jenkins, now 43, performed with the energy of someone at most 40. Occasionally, he was able to conjure up exuberance in his old bones to do a little running and jumping around on stage, but for the most part he stayed by the microphone. Bassist Leo Kremer, the youngest member on stage, didn’t contribute much in the way of youthful vitality. By far the one most responsible for the injection of energy in the night was the guy in charge of lights. When those bright six-pack spotlights shone on you, and Jenkins’ throat looked like it was ready to explode, you knew it was time to put your hands in the air.

The size of the venue could also have been a disadvantage. “This is probably the smallest crowd we have played for in, oh, the past eight years,” Jenkins pointed out, but once the elephant in the room was out in the open, everyone could relax and have a good time without trying to be as loud or excited as audiences of some of the larger venues the band typically plays in.

Another great moment that gave the band some performance credibility was when Jenkins acknowledged the crowd’s desire to hear one of their most popular songs, “Jumper.” “We’ve all roasted marshmallows around a fire; now we’re going to have a sing-along,” Jenkins said coyly.

The performance itself did have a few weaker moments. The vocals at times seemed poorly articulated or badly mixed, so it was occasionally hard to hear. This problem was particularly evident in the first few songs, when the stage lighting cast the band in a dark shadow so that there was nothing to distract the audience’s attention from the unimpressive vocals. Another misstep was the style in which the show concluded: at the end of the second encore, Jenkins encouraged the audience to sing along and got the crowd energized but then simply walked off stage, leaving everyone to trail off singing awkwardly, giggle sheepishly and head for the door.

All in all, the night’s experience was a positive one. There were some real energetic highlights in the show, the best of which was a thunderous rendition of “Semi-Charmed Life.” The band showed us that it’s still possible to get excited about songs you haven’t heard for over five years. Perhaps most important to the show’s overall flavor was that Jenkins seemed to really love Williams, as he spoke several times about experiences he had had roaming around campus the afternoon before the performance. He told us that we were “his people,” and let’s face it – we’re going to like anyone who can see and love Williams for the all the reasons we do. So in the end, nothing else mattered – Third Eye Blind gave us what we wanted.