Third Eye Blind Shoots Nostalgia Trip Into Cleveland's Arm at Nautica

Concert Review

click to enlarge Third Eye Blind Shoots Nostalgia Trip Into Cleveland's Arm at Nautica
It's worth pointing out — and who knows if Stephan Jenkins would entertain this idea — that Third Eye Blind in present-day form occupies an important role on the touring circuit. While, sure, a lot of us are psyched about the prospect of a new album, the band's appearances in Cleveland and elsewhere signify a more sepia-tone moment of wistfulness and introspection. The band fucking rocks — duh — but their high-water marks represent a very special dose of nostalgia, simplicity, heartbreak and bittersweet love for many of us. (i.e. We came here for "Semi-Charmed Life," dammit.)

The filled-to-the-brim stands at Nautica were decorated with T-shirts emblazoned with the iconic 3eb logo. There were plenty of teens hanging around the show Friday night, but, through and through, this was a show for the twenty- and thirtysomethings who cut their alt-rock teeth on the band's 1997 debut. (Will that blood-red cover art ever inspire anything but a longing for the past?) The crowd, eager and excitable and in rock-out mode all night, comprised the sort of people who wouldn't think twice about picking up a ticket for Third Eye Blind — never mind how enthralled or not they were with the likes of Ursa Major and "Non-Dairy Creamer" and all the post-Cadogan stuff.

(See a slideshow of photos from the show — including sets by Dashboard Confessional and Augustana)

Anyway. They opened with a spacey intro into "Graduate," which was fantastic and perfect for the evening ahead. "Blinded," "Wounded," "Crystal Baller" kept the energy high early on, while tunes like "Slow Motion" and the iconic "How's It Gonna Be" leveled things off into a gently swaying trip for a time. The climax in "How's It Gonna Be," however, is an explosive torrent of emotion ("I wanna taste the salt of your skin / the soft dive of oblivion"). Coming up on 20 years later, Jenkins' voice still carries the gravity of lines like that with grace and awareness.

(Maybe it's worth noting on a personal level that I felt like absolute hell during this show. A week of GMO-grade pollen ravaging my sinuses had pushed my head to the threshold of implosion. BUT. It's hard to wallow when the music onstage is just so good.)

There were several nifty segues in the setlist, including a smooth-as-hell drift from "Mine" into "Losing a Whole Year," where the first verse of the latter was crooned over the former's gentle outro melody. Very cool; and, of course, the band then lit into the chorus and "Losing" took on its full, swanky, post-coital glory.  

They dropped a few of the new tunes into the setlist; "Everything is Easy" is circulating as the leadoff single. It's pretty good, but my main argument here is that live Third Eye Blind is all about the hits — like a lot of bands who peaked in another era. But it's not like 3eb's "peak" was typical in any sense.

...I guess what I'm getting at is that my money says the early years of Third Eye Blind's studio output constituted nothing short of masterwork. In short, all those guys and gals with the T-shirts and the shit-eating grins and the fists in the air all night: Well, most of us weren't there to just rock out to Jammin' 92.3's one-time rotation. We were trying to tap into something that came around once — a heartfelt, radio-lovin' pop album that defined whatever it was for us: elementary school, high school, college, the waxing years of a young career, a broken marriage, a night of ecstasy at prom, a too-long period of loneliness, an engagement, a garage band that went nowhere but was fun as shit, a long drive down the coast with a broken CD player and nothing else to think to but Jenkins' claims on love and loss and etc.

If you caught the show, you probably know all of this. It was a fun night. Practically speaking, it was just a really awesome way to start the summer of 2015. If you missed it, well, you probably missed the first wave when these guys dropped unforgettable music on us two decades ago. It's not too late, though. Cue up "The Background" and lean back. Think on it. Drift. We're all a bit older than we were yesterday or 20 years ago. Things have happened. Our twisted little galaxy has shifted just so. It'd be a damn shame if it hadn't.

When the band returned for the encore, we waited with inclined ears for the telltale drum beat beginning of "Semi-Charmed." We got it. We danced. We celebrated.

And it was gold,
it was rose,
we were takin' sips of it through our nose. 

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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