Review: Third Eye Blind kick off fall tour at Tampa's Ritz Ybor
On Dec. 1, 2003, Third Eye Blind wrapped up a fall tour at a club called Twilight in Ybor City. From the stage, singer Stephan Jenkins sounded grateful, thanking the devoted fans in the crowd for making them feel like a cult band -- which, he said, is all he'd really hoped for as an artist.
Twilight is long gone, but Third Eye Blind's fans are still a dedicated bunch -- even Rolling Stone says so. And hundreds of them turned out Thursday as Third Eye Blind kicked off a fall tour at the Ritz in Ybor City.
The San Francisco natives played a 90-minute, 21-song set heavy on tracks from their self-titled 1997 debut and their fourth album, the recent Ursa Major. It was a telling testament to the band's staying power that there were fans singing along to every song in the set -- including all the new stuff.
"So this is the beginning," Jenkins said from the stage. "Last night was the first night ever that we practiced for Ursa Major, so we might f--- the whole thing up. I have no idea what's going to happen. All I know is, we came here to get down. What did you come here to do?"
Oh, everyone got down, all right. Right from the get-go.
My own Third Eye Blind bona fides are well established; this was the fourth time I've seen them live. It's kind of a random band to like so much, I guess, but hey, I came of age in the '90s, and so I'll always have a soft spot for alt-rock bands from that era, like Oasis and Semisonic and Everclear and Toad the Wet Sprocket.
But somehow, Third Eye Blind has kept it together. As solid as their first album still is, each of their three follow-ups have contained singles that are just as good as Jumper and Semi-Charmed Life -- such as Never Let You Go (from 1999's Blue), Crystal Baller (from 2003's Out of the Vein) and Bonfire (from Ursa Major). Very few '90s bands have been able to do that.
On Thursday, Third Eye Blind came out to a cleanly decorated stage (complete with floor rug and burning incense; how very Haight-Ashbury of them) in near-blackness. The focal point of an instrumental intro was a dancer in fuzzy mouse ears who shook her groove thing on a pedestal behind drummer Brad Hargreaves.
As it turned out, the band played Never Let You Go, Crystal Baller and Bonfire all within the first eight songs, which equals awesome cubed.
But for the most part, the setlist was stocked with tracks from Third Eye Blind -- Losing A Whole Year, Jumper, Semi-Charmed Life, How's It Going To Be?, God Of Wine, Motorcycle Drive By and Graduate. It's tough to imagine a Third Eye Blind concert without these songs, but still ... would have been cool to hear a couple more tracks from Blue or Out of the Vein -- maybe Blinded or 1000 Julys. At the very least, I would have been fine if they'd ditched a long and unnecessary drum solo in the middle of Jumper.
As for Jenkins: He sure seems to have a little bit of Bono in him. He swaggers around the stage like a tiger in a pen, though he can at times come across as aloof -- hands in pockets, gestures that sometimes feel rehearsed. You got the sense working up a James Brown-level sweat wasn't exactly on his agenda.
But Jenkins does love his audience singalongs, and he did his best to get fans to scream with him (the whoa-oh-ohs on Bonfire, the "rejoice/evermore" lyric on Dao of St. Paul). On some songs (like Motorcycle Drive By), the crowd almost drowned out Jenkins, and he was more than happy to let the fans take over.
As for the new stuff? While Don't Believe A Word and a pulsing, slightly discofied Monotov's Private Opera were quite good, Bonfire was easily (and unsurprisingly) the best of the Ursa Major songs live. It was so warm and inviting that Jenkins brought it back for a brief acoustic reprise at the end, with the crowd still singing as the band left the stage.
Both band and crowd may have come to the Ritz to get down. But as Bonfire faded out, everyone left on a high.
Here's the setlist:
Can You Take Me
Losing A Whole Year
Crystal Baller (setlist says "Crystal or Faster," so in future shows, maybe they'll play Faster instead)
Never Let You Go
Motorcycle Drive By
One In Ten (SJ solo)
Forget Myself (acoustic)
How's It Going To Be? (acoustic)
Dao Of St. Paul
Monotov's Private Opera
Don't Believe A Word
Semi-Charmed Life (with Nelly's Ride Wit Me)
Slow Motion (SJ solo)
God Of Wine
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*