Those who have kept up with the band got the chance to see them do a big, theatrical show and play some massive hits while they’re at it.
Every band is somebody’s favorite band, even the ones we forgot after the ‘90s. Just because we stopped listening doesn’t mean they stopped existing, and ultimately those bands become blindspots for us all. Third Eye Blind had hits – “How’s It Going to Be,” “Never Let You Go,” “Jumper,” and of course “Semi-Charmed Life” were all huge parts of the culture for anyone who listened to Top 40 or “alternative” stations, with non-radio songs like “Motorcycle Drive-By” and the drugged-out murder ballad “Slow Motion” entering the canon for those in-the-know. Those songs are 20 years old, but the band made three more albums after that, the last of which, Dopamine, came out in 2015. This is what stops their opulently-named Summer Gods Tour from being a nostalgia cash-grab: those who have kept up with the band got the chance to see them do a big, theatrical show, and play some massive hits while they’re at it.
The show was held in Moda Center’s Theater of the Clouds, an abbreviated version of the space that’s curtained off by thick black curtains that reduces the 20,000 capacity space to just above 6000. It seeks to equalize the fact that the multi-purpose edge given to the arena makes for horrible acoustics, and provides an alternative to the outdoor, lawn-based Edgefield Amphitheater. It’s still wild that Third Eye Blind, even with emo royalty Jimmy Eat World and modest indie rock darlings Ra Ra Riot as their openers, would have the draw in 2019 to fill seats. To my amazement, people turned out for the show, nicely packing the floor and lower level.
Who comes out for Third Eye Blind in 2019? It’s the people who were in their late 20s/early 30s in the band’s heyday, if our section was any indication, which felt like a Gen Xer Gomorrah. They draped their legs over chairs, took like 20 selfies in different poses with the flash on and got fucked up on $10 Coors Lights (“I’m NOT HAPPY that Miller Lite is out!” a man behind me literally yelled after opener Jimmy Eat World’s set). Some people are just exhausting to be around, no matter what cool bands they see.
I came in at the tail end of Ra Ra Riot’s set, but seeing the band on a stage that big was truly strange. Once they ended, their backdrop was pulled down to reveal four LED-surrounded fans and “JIMMY EAT WORLD” emblazoned above them. Industrial-strength fog machines billowed plumes into the venue, and as I watched the crowd dancing to show opener “Pain” from Futures or Clarity’s “Lucky Denver Mint,” I felt mad I wasn’t on the floor dancing with everyone else. Predictably, the crowd exploded for their final song, “The Middle,” a taste of some of the explosive crowd energy yet to come. Remind me to see Jimmy Eat World on their own tour as soon as possible.
Seeing “The Middle” made me wish we could all see the bands who made enduring honest-to-god hits play for crowds big enough to process their impact, a concept I’d think about repeatedly throughout Third Eye Blind’s set. Nobody seems to have told 3EB that they stopped being as visible after 1999, and maybe that’s for the best: they play like they’re the biggest band in the world, which is part of why this show was as satisfying as it was. Packed with towering LED screens, an intricate array of lights surrounding them, and lasers, they fit the space like a glove. Perhaps they’re the RNC-trolling arena rockers we need now?
Before Blue’s “Never Let You Go” – the set’s third song, a real power move – frontman Stephan Jenkins addressed the audience, admiring them for coming out en masse despite not having a new album, and welcoming those of us who haven’t seen them before. It began to feel like a very cool club I didn’t know about, and a lot of that is because Jenkins is a secret charisma beast; he’s able to control an audience beautifully, made seemingly of pure swagger. He’d stalk the stage carrying half the mic stand, pulled separate from the bottom half, a move you know he pulls all the time. His seemingly genuine thankfulness was expressed repeatedly, refreshing for a show this big, grasping front-row hands every once in a while.
In between hits, they played songs from their whole catalogue, each greeted with total joy, elevating “Company of Strangers” from the We Are Drugs EP to the same heights as “Jumper” directly after it. We were treated to a remarkably satisfying solo acoustic performance of “Slow Motion” – the band’s true best song – backed up by a dramatically-staged version of “Motorcycle Drive-By,” a truly dynamite one-two punch. Hearing Jenkins sing “MY SISTER’S EATING PAINT CHIPS AGAIN, MAYBE THAT’S WHY SHE’S INSANE” in a basketball arena was worth the price of admission, and that’s even before we get to the real hits. “Jumper” and “How’s It Going to Be” could easily have been the high points at another show, but “Semi-Charmed Life” tore the roof off the whole fucking room, stretched out because, well, why not milk it? During that song, it didn’t matter if they’re in my blindspot or that they aren’t my favorite band – for just one song, that all melted away and no band could have felt bigger.