Third Eye Blind at The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids

The Orbit Room, 25 April 2010

Most people recognize Third Eye Blind because of their 1997 hit “Semi-Charmed Life”. This specific tour is promoting their latest album Ursa Major which was released August of last year. This release came over five years after their last full length album. The demographic has changed dramatically since that time as evidenced by the promotion of this show by 95.7, a light rock station.

The single opening act for the show was a New York band called The Upwelling. I can’t say much about this band. Musically they were fairly generic. They had a male keyboardist who awkwardly foot tapped through a substantial portion of the set. Their enthusiasm was great but it hit an awkward turn mid set when they asked the audience “Who wants to have sex?” during an all ages show. The songs were not very memorable. The day of the show their Facebook page listed 525 fans. As of this writing they have 528 fans. I don’t see a large Grand Rapids following in their future.

It was after 9:30 when Third Eye Blind took the stage. From my experience it takes a few songs for this band to warm up so if you leave during the third song you really are missing out on the best parts of their performance. They played the majority of the songs off of their newest release over the course of the evening but interspersed it with some of their more familiar hits. One of the first songs off the new album that they played was “Bonfire” which is a pretty catchy tune you will definitely hear if you listen for it in rotation of the music played in most big box stores.

The lead singer, Stephan Jenkins, is reasonably charismatic but his fashion choices were a little bizarre. Looking at him it’s hard to see how he ever made People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. Fortunately, this was a concert, so appearances are largely irrelevant. The songs played were primarily the hit singles off the band’s first two CDs including “Graduate”, “Wounded” and “Motorcycle Drive By”. Largely absent was any material off their previous release “Out of the Vein.” The track “Faster” was the only one that seemed to have made the cut. This disappointed me personally as I found “Out of the Vein” to better than their previous self titled release or the subsequent one “Blue”. The crowd seemed to receive any song they played enthusiastically, however. The crowd knew all of the songs, even the newer ones. This was a pretty crowded show compared to most Orbit Room shows hosting alternative bands who’s heyday was over a decade ago. A lot of that may have had to do with it being an all ages show. I’m not sure how Third Eye Blind became all ages fare as a significant portion of the lyrics of their earlier songs explicitly referred to having sex while on methamphetamines.

The band played the politically charged song “non-Dairy Creamer” which was previously released as an EP. They alternated songs from Ursa Major with well known singles and an obligatory drum solo before leaving the stage pre-encore. There was little pretense of suspense on if there would be an encore as the song everyone came to hear “Semi-Charmed Life” had not yet been played.

The encore started with the explicit alternate version of the song “Slow Motion”. I was surprised when the crowd seemed to know this version and no one faltered with the lyrics of the mainstream album version. They followed that with “Don’t Believe a Word” and then played “Semi-Charmed Life” to a still frenzied crowd. There was even crowd surfing and mild moshing, which I haven’t seen at an alternative rock show for probably five years now. The band may have lost a drummer and slowed down a little since 1996, but they still put on an impressive show. Grand Rapids obviously still remembered and loved the band that was one of the most definitive bands of the mid 90’s.