Many bands have a few hit songs, tour for a few years and then ride off into the sunset to cash royalty checks for the rest of their days. Third Eye Blind is not one of those bands. They rode the wave of hits like “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper” from their self-titled debut album into a 16-year career filled with ups and downs and over 12 million records sold worldwide. The band definitely left on a high note Nov. 2 at the Tower Theater.
After Boston-based Gentlemen Hall, the six-piece band, (including one flutist,) finished up its opening pop-rock set, the Tower really started to fill up with dedicated Third Eye Blind fans. A landmark location for live music in Philadelphia, the Tower has been running since the 1970s, and by 9 p.m. the venue looked very close to reaching its capacity of 3,100. The age of the crowd favored the 25-40 age range, but there were plenty of teenagers scattered throughout the crowd. Third Eye Blind is one of the more wide-reaching bands of the last 20 years; usually you don’t see such an age range at a concert that isn’t a classic rock band like The Who. No matter their age, everyone in the building lost their minds when the lights dropped at 9:15 and the band came out.
Lead singer and original member, Stephen Jenkins, came out barefoot with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up as the group launched right into its first songs, including “Losing a Whole Year” and “Crystal Baller.” Playing in near darkness, Jenkins gallivanted around the stage with strobes lights flashing behind him as he enticed the crowd to sing along with the band. After tearing through “Faster/Danger” off the 2003 album “Out of the Vein,” the band played the extremely catchy “Never Let You Go,” which the crowd sang along with Jenkins. Speaking of which, at 49 years old, Jenkins was looking pretty spritely onstage. He was belting out the lyrics while spinning the microphone stand around, getting the crowd involved — it was almost like he never left the ‘90s. This was especially true when they played early hits “Graduate” and “Wounded” with much gusto, bringing the show to a whole new level.
Later, after the rest of the band stepped offstage, Jenkins prefaced the next part of the show by saying, “We’re trying to keep it free-flowing on this tour.” He then began to take crowd suggestions for what song he should perform by himself. He settled nicely into a rendition of “Slow Motion,” and then the band returned for a song from the unreleased album, which Jenkins said is tentatively titled “Dream Sequence.” The song featured a screechy guitar solo from touring guitarist Kryz Reid. After apologizing to the fans for taking so long to come out with new albums, Jenkins took some time to pay homage to Lou Reed. He said how much of an inspiration the recently deceased singer-songwriter was to him and how Reed allowed him to write about things that were important to him. It was appropriate that he dedicated “Motorcycle Drive By” to Reed, as it is one of the most emotional songs in the band’s repertoire.
By now, things were in full swing. The concertgoers were energized and completely ready to sing the next song by themselves, arguably the most well-known Third Eye Blind song, “Jumper.” As soon as Jenkins strummed the opening chords on his 1946 Gibson acoustic guitar, the crowd took over a share of lead singing duties for a cathartic version of the song that was a culmination of the entire evening. After the song, original member and drummer Brad Hargreaves was left alone on stage to deliver a blistering drum solo in which he incorporated a double bass pedal and an electronic drum machine.
The encore was icing on the cake, and the crowd went into a frenzy during all three songs: “Narcolepsy,” “God of Wine” and especially “Semi-Charmed Life.” Before going into the last song, Jenkins told the crowd, “Thank you for keeping our music alive. Thank you for loving us.” Considering the concert they performed, it’s easy to see why their legions of fans stick around.