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Third Eye Blind brings fun to Boston despite rough performance

By Dana Trismen

Section: Arts

November 8, 2013

Third Eye Blind, an alternative rock band known best known for their songs “Jumper” and “Semi-Charmed Life,” swept into Boston on Monday for a performance at the House of Blues. While all the band members are now in their 40s, and the lead singer (Steve Jenkins) is pushing 50, the show sold out quickly. The audience sat through the opening act Gentleman Hall (which wasn’t really all that bad), and then waited another 40 minutes for Third Eye Blind to take the stage.

The band opened with a strange medley of half-songs, in which they would play hits like “Losing a Whole Year” for a verse and then switch into something else. The lights on the stage went wild, blinding the audience and causing people to shield their eyes. The whole stage was in fog, so only the band members’ silhouettes were visible. Jenkins wore a sweatshirt, the hood hiding his face.

It was as though the band was trying to hide two key facts, the first their visible and very apparent age, and the second a much larger problem: Jenkins can no longer sing.

Third Eye Blind released their self-titled album in 1997, with hits such as “Narcolepsy” and “Graduate.” More albums followed, with “Blue” in 1999, “Out of the Vein” in 2003 and most recently, “Ursa Major” in 2009. The band endured its share of controversy. “Semi-Charmed Life” was banned from some radio stations due to apparent mention of coke, and the band had a falling out with founding member Kevin Cadogan who sued for wrongful termination. There are only two original members of the band who still perform in it today, Jenkins and Brad Hargreaves, who plays drums.

While “Ursa Major” had some songs on it that were still lyrically and rhythmically enticing (namely, “Bonfire” and “Sharp Knife”), I had noticed before the concert that the whole album sounds like it was sung by a different singer. All the songs in “Ursa Major” are in a certain vocal range, never hitting any high notes.

As I watched Jenkins perform, I realized that he truly had lost his ability to hit any of the high notes in his older songs. Songs from “Ursa Major” sounded fine, because he had written them after losing his voice. But in hits like “Never Let You Go,” Jenkins either had to scream the high notes or make the audience sing them for him.

After this original disappointment, which lasted for about five songs, I decided to enjoy myself anyway. Many artists cannot sing as well as they used to; age does a number on everybody (think Elton John). And the real reason so many Bostonians came out to see Third Eye Blind was for nostalgic reasons. Third Eye Blind rekindles the ’90s era, back to a time where song lyrics mattered and everything wasn’t hip-hop and repetitive themes of love and sex on the radio.

Third Eye Blind’s lyrics are the reason they have so many fans. Each song is carefully planned out, and can make the listener feel as though they’ve been transported to summertime or that immediate hurt after a breakup.

While Jenkins may have failed to sing many of his songs, he still shone on slower, lower-range tunes such as “Slow Motion,” “God of Wine” and “Motorcycle Drive By.” Jenkins sang “God of Wine” as one of the encore songs, which was interesting given its depressing subject matter. The lyrics go from, “She takes a drink and then she waits/The alcohol it permeates/And soon the cells give way, and it cancels out the day,” to “The God of Wine is crouched down in my room/You let me down I said it/Now I’m going down/And you’re not even around.” But the way Jenkins sang it so soulfully make it a perfect encore song because it finally impressed the audience.

Jenkins was also an interesting stage performer. He would come on stage barefoot, kicking the air frantically while singing. He made multiple references to “a movement,” a place where people gathered and loved each other. Honestly, he sounded a bit like Miley Cyrus, like his music would cause people to suddenly embrace strangers on the street. But Jenkins’s energy was palpable, and though he is 49, he still knows how to rock out on stage.

House of Blues is an excellent venue to see the band in because it is a smaller space with good acoustics. Though I was on the second floor, I could still see Jenkins clearly. The band reported that they are recording a new album, due out soon, and that they hope to come back to Boston afterward. Maybe you don’t want to spend $40 on a ticket to see somebody who can’t sing, but if your attachment to this band is strong enough I would still recommend it.

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