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Review: Third Eye Blind, Colbie Caillat help diners beat the heat at Taste of Pinellas

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The tough thing about reviewing the music at Taste of Pinellas is that the whole time an artist is onstage, all you can do is think of ways to describe the heat. Spirit-crushing is a word that comes to mind. Satanic is another.

I had biked by Vinoy Waterfront Park on Friday and Saturday nights, enabling me to catch snippets of sets by Chris Isaak, Bonnie Raitt and Buddy Guy. Both nights, it was your typical balmy, but ultimately pleasant, May Florida weather.

Not Sunday. On Sunday, I spent most of the afternoon in sunny Vinoy Park, and it was the hottest I think I've been at a concert since ... well, since last year's Taste of Pinellas. At least one young woman sitting near me swooned from the heat and had to be tended to by EMTs.

There's nothing event organizers can do about the heat. And I'm not really complaining, either, considering this might the best lineup Taste of Pinellas ever. In fact, I was more than happy to brave nearly-triple-digit temperatures for the chance to see one of my favorite bands, Third Eye Blind, as well as talented singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.

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Caillat, for one, did not wilt in the heat -- she's used to it, being a SoCal girl and all. It is impossible not to note her sunny, girl-next-door disposition, and her understated but beautiful voice, which fits simple pop songs like Realize and Fallin' For You. New single I Do is a bouncy, silly little love song that's sure to be played at every wedding you attend for the rest of your life. Me, I'm partial to Begin Again, from 2009's Breakthrough.

It's a shame that last year's Lilith Fair festival got canceled, because there may be no modern artist better suited for Lilith than Caillat. She performed two songs from her upccoming album, All Of You, and both called to mind female singers and bands from a decade or more ago: Upcoming single Brighter Than The Sun, which had elements of early-'90s alt-pop like the Sundays or Indigo Girls; and alt-countryish track Shadow, which had touches of Kathleen Edwards and Fleetwood Mac.

Everything Caillat sang sounded great, and was aided by a crackerjack band behind her, providing excellent harmonies. Caillat was a catch for the festival, because she'll be playing theaters -- if not even larger venues -- for a long, long time to come in the future.

I have made no secret on this blog of my unhealthy appreciation for Third Eye Blind (see here and here). And while I enjoyed this show, as I have every time I've seen them, something about it seemed off from the get-go. Maybe it was the curious choice of opener -- Motorcycle Drive By, which is one of 3EB's best songs, is also a cathartic, crescendoing anthem that has always worked really well later in the set. Maybe it was the fact that, for the first time in the five concerts I've seen them, frontman Stephen Jenkins had traded his traditional black getup for an, um, let's say, bold teal tank top.

Jenkins is a mercurial fellow, occasionally coming across like he doesn't really want to be there, prone to striking odd poses, meandering around the stage, never really smiling and making a big deal out of simple gestures like putting on a hat. He didn't even speak to the crowd until the eighth song, during the breakdown to Never Let You Go ("We just survived the Rapture!" he said. "This is the Rapture after party!").

He tweaked a couple of arrangements here and there, including the chorus to Faster, and stuck the band's most familiar songs, which was much appreciated by the mostly younger crowd (that, too, might be a shock to Taste of Pinellas veterans -- a crowd heavy on people in their 20s and 30s). Everyone sang along to old-school singles like Graduate, Losing A Whole Year, Jumper and of course Semi-Charmed Life. Those among us who have advanced past Third Eye Blind 101 appreciated Crystal Baller and A Bonfire.

There were, in fact, fans singing along to every song in every corner of the festival -- a testament to why some of us still think this band is underappreciated. Some fans brought homemade signs for requests, which Jenkins obliged, even performing an acoustic version of Anything, which he said is a rarity. I think I even saw one girl planking:

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It was sort of a greatest-hits set (minus How's It Going To Be and Don't Believe A Word), which is appropriate, given where the band is at in 2011. Jenkins said this was the last date of a spring mini-tour, and this week they'll head back to San Francisco to record their next album. They closed with a song that Jenkins said was for the new disc, but sounded an awful lot like a piano-heavy, post-punk version of Monotov's Private Opera, from their last disc, Ursa Major. Maybe the Ursa Minor rumors are true, and the band's new album is simply a selection of discarded and alternate cuts from the Ursa Major sessions.

However the album turns out, I'm sure I'll pick it up, and if 3EB returns to Tampa Bay to support it, I'm sure I'll be there. Let's just hope the next time they come to town, they play somewhere with air conditioning.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Sunday, May 22, 2011 9:59pm]

    

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