Third Eye Blind Live at The Forum.
American alt. rockers Third Eye Blind returned to British shores for the first time in five years for two dates, including a headline slot at the newly rebranded O2 Forum Kentish Town, as part of a short European tour supporting their fifth studio album Dopamine, the second release on the band’s own Mega Collider Records label.
Following huge success in the late nineties, with their eponymous debut album going six times platinum and spawning three hit singles, and it’s follow-up Blue achieving critical and commercial success, the band began leaving longer and longer gaps between releases, they left their major label following Elektra Records absorption into Atlantic and, aside from frontman and principle songwriter Stephan Jenkins, have gone through a shifting line-up. But for their dedicated fan base, the Californians remain a consistent source of nineties alternative rock some twenty years on.
With lead singer and guitarist Jenkins along with drummer Brad Hargreaves being the two longest-standing band members, the duo were joined by guitarist Kryz Reid, keyboard player Alex Kopp and bassist Alex LeCavalier, all additions since 2009 album Ursa Major, to round out the sound.
The band appeared on stage cloaked in shadows and smoke, the frontman singing first full track Everything Is Easy from the drum riser before slowly making his way to the front of the stage for Wounded from 1999 sophomore release Blue, the Forum audience singing along in unison for the first time of many. “Hi, we’re Third Eye Blind from San Francisco, California” Jenkins bellowed during an instrumental break in Blue track Never Let You Go, introducing the band to an adoring audience. “We’re so excited to be here right now in London” he gushed.
A good mix of tracks was aired during the night including a selection from Dopamine such as the David Bowie-inspired Rites Of Passage and Exiles – Jenkins referencing the Thin White Duke multiple times “It’s like Bowie says, you pretty young things you go through ch-ch-changes”, “When Ziggy Stardust plays at a karaoke bar”.
However, it was recent O2 Arena residents U2 that were covered, with several lines of the Irish rockers’ 1987 hit With Or Without You being tacked on to the end of Rites Of Passage as a mini drum kit was brought out to the front of the stage, Jenkins promptly taking up the sticks to close out the song.
The rest of the band then left the stage for the 51-year-old frontman to tackle Blue closer Slow Motion accompanied with just an electric guitar. A cover of Beyoncé’s Mine tore straight into debut album opener Losing A Whole Year, the Forum crowd moshing to the early hit, the tempo kept up with Out Of Vein single Crystal Baller.
Jenkins was then caught mopping his face of blood: “I got excited and smashed my guitar on my face so now I’ve got blood all over my face. I’m fine with it if you are!” he said, taking the situation in his stride, before strumming the opening chords of How’s It Going To Be on an acoustic guitar, enticing screams from the crowd.
The quintet closed the main set with hit single Jumper before leaving the stage only to return with Jenkins clutching a bouquet of flowers, picking flowers out to toss into the crowd. Expressing his love of the band’s new record, he said, “We made this new album Dopamine and we recorded some of the songs right here in London. We really want you to hear it. If you buy it you buy it, if you steal it you steal it.”
Saving their biggest hit for near the end, the San Francisco natives gave the crowd what they wanted with Semi-Charmed Life, The former art deco cinema crowd bouncing from barrier to bar and up in the balcony with the youth of the nineties high on one of the summer of 1997’s biggest hits. And before closing the night with an acoustic, abbreviated rendition of Ursa Major single Bonfire, they had the crowd, including me, belting out every word to debut album track The Background, a rare live treat for any long-standing fan.
While their days of packing out arenas may indeed be over, Third Eye Blind have outlasted many of their peers from the late nineties alt. rock scene and continue to put out relevant new music as well putting on energetic live shows with charismatically weird frontman Jenkins continuing to steal the show.
Following shows in Amsterdam and Koln, Third Eye Blind return to the US for a string of dates across the country to see out the year.
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Kalpesh has more music photography up on his Flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate