Last night a packed Stage AE welcomed alternative rock legends Third Eye Blind to Pittsburgh. Lord Grunge and Backwoods Payback opened while an anxious crowd awaited charismatic poet and performer Stephan Jenkins to belt the band's adored choruses and hooks from the 1990s.
Lord Grunge, a local experimental deejay, kicked off the evening with a less than climactic performance. His varying music style, which ranged from hardcore to a Capella rapping, seemed to confuse the crowd rather than excite them. He sang along with prerecorded tracks, making his minutes on stage feel like a musical identity crisis during karaoke night. His banter in between songs did not help his case either, especially when he awkwardly declared, "I like to swear, and I like to drink." The blunt statement did not add to his stage presence at all. He did, however, make his passion for his work quite obvious, and he displayed a definite interest in playing off of the crowd's energy.
Backwoods Payback gave an energizing show with their polished technique. The heavy metal rockers from West Chester, Pa. employed distorted guitar licks and gritty vocals while also incorporating crowd interactions into their set, such as discussing the Pittsburgh Penguins. The most captivating element of their show was bassist Jessica Baker. The bleach-blonde goddess did an excellent job of holding her own alongside the males of the group. Even though the group's sound did not seem like the type one would expect from a Third Eye Blind opener, they managed to pump up the crowd nonetheless.
After what seemed like a century-long sound-check, Jenkins, clad in an over-sized hooded sweatshirt, and the rest of Third Eye Blind entered the stage. They opened with their signature intro and a blood-pumping rendition of "Thanks a Lot," quickly followed by "Graduate" and "Can You Take Me." Jenkins used the whole stage in his performance and kept his hood on for first few songs, hiding the face so many female fans longed to see. He looked like a Jedi knight with the way he strutted across the stage, his apparel hanging loosely on his body. He teased the audience by casually unzipping the garment a little bit more with each song.
A high point of the show was "Faster," as the crowd reacted wildly to a lengthy pause Jenkins inserted right before the first chorus. The radio hit "Never Let You Go" also thrilled the fans, and Jenkins' announcement of an upcoming new album at the end of the song just added to the uproar.
Jenkins demonstrated a peaceful demeanor between songs, at one point calling out, "Every single one of us is in this thing together." He urged audience members to interact with the strangers next to them, encouraging them to tell each other to "have a beautiful spring." He also did his usual glow-stick bit, tossing illuminated necklaces into the crowd.
"Slow Motion" provoked some audience members to raise lighters in the air, while Brad Hargreaves' hair-raising drum solo during "Jumper" threw the fans into a tizzy. When he chucked his drumsticks out to the crowd, the frenzied fans dove for them like starving sharks at feeding time.
The band played the crowd-pleasing "Semi-Charmed Life," and after a brief absence from the stage, they returned to end with "Blinded" and "Let Me In." Third Eye Blind's performance proved that their music's relevance and appeal have hardly faded since the first album. Even in his forties, Jenkins can still deliver an intense, poetic performance.