Co-written by Justin Burkhardt
Third Eye Blind stage last Friday night to cap off the inaugural Yuengling Summer Concert Series at Levitt Pavilion at Steelstacks. The set, which started about 25 minutes late, was short, but solid, and included hits, deeper cuts, and new songs. The band, led by frontman Stephan Jenkins, started off strong with “Faster,” which also included a snippet of a rock version of Ginuwine’s R&B hit “Pony”. The band then went into “Never Let You Go”, which garnered a huge crowd response. Things were lukewarm for “Can You Take Me” off of their last album, 2009’s Ursa Major. Although their later music is still very solid, it hasn’t resonated with anyone other than the most hardcore of fans.
Things quickly picked back up when Jenkins interrupted the song, saying that he was a “motherfucking magic man” and that the group came all the way from California to play at the show, which, judging by their lack of shows prior to Bethlehem, was probably true. He noted, “Summer’s almost over…so let’s get into this motherfucking” and launched into a particularly lively rendition of “Graduate.” They also premiered a new song called “All I Want (Dopamine)”. It was reminiscent of their older material, and gives a hopeful glimpse at what their new album might sound like, although Jenkins’ falsetto was clearly off throughout the show.
One of the worst performances of the evening was the band’s performance of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” This has become somewhat of a staple for the band, and the performed it at the Musikfest show 5 years ago. Back then it sounded much better, as Friday’s performance found Jenkins’ voice strained. Perhaps its his age or perhaps he struggled due to studio work or not being on a proper tour, but the high notes sounded raspy all night long and trying to pull off a Jackson 5 cover didn’t do them any favors.
Jenkins also played another new song from their upcoming album (Which Jenkins had joked was supposed to be finished by the end of summer, only a few days away) called “Rites of Passage.” Rites was a solid song but out of the two new songs “All I Want” was more preferable. Segueing from “Rites of Passage” into “Semi-Charmed Life” was a funky drum solo by drummer Brad Hargreaves, who had the stage to himself, which was a nice surprise and a high point, musically..
Sandwiched a new song in between playing their biggest hits, “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper” which was a great idea set-wise. Because as the legend Prince recently told Andre 3000 of Outkast, “Just give them the hits… After you give them the hits, then you can do whatever.” Third Eye Blind gave the fans the hits and then some on this night. The inclusion of two new songs was one of the show’s highlights. It felt like a privilege to be in front of a band that felt comfortable enough testing out two new songs.
Jenkins returned, solo, for the start of the encore and performed the fan favorite “Slow Motion.” The last time the band played Bethlehem, during Musikfest, they unfortunately left this out of their setlist, but played an even better version at a show at Moravian just months before. Still, the song sounded fantastic and the crowd was clearly happy with its inclusion. Jenkins was set to play one more song in the set, but fans began screaming out requests and he acquiesced to “Deep Inside of You,” which lead to the crowd singing along and clapping their hands. That alone would’ve been a fine enough send-off to the summer, with a group sing-along to one of the younger generation’s defining bands, but they had one more song in store.
Jenkins told the crowd he wish they could play longer, and he could have if he wanted to (the curfew there is much later than their pre-10pm ending time.) Most in the crowd probably would’ve loved to hear “Motorcycle Drive By” or “Crystal Baller” let alone other, deeper cuts. Considering the band took the stage around 25 minutes late and ended 18 minutes after their scheduled time, they played a shorter set than they were supposed to, even with a fan request thrown in.
Jenkins ended the night with “How’s It Going to Be,” a song he said the band had previously retired from playing but just brought back in a “campfire version” which consisted of Jenkins playing solo. He proceeded to do so, with the full band joining him to close out the song, a fitting and beautiful end to a above average, but not without faults, end to the summer and the new outdoors concert series at Artsquest.
3EB haven’t released an album since 2009’s Ursa Major but Jenkins said a new album is coming soon, and that once the album releases they’d love to come back and play in the Valley again. Judging by the energetic and enthusiastic crowd, it is clear the Valley would love to see them here again. 3EB are still enjoyable live and fans continuing to come out to see them despite no new music is proof of that.
Now that it’s over we’d also like to applaud Artsquest’s new paid summer concert series. Modest Mouse brought a large crowd and was well received, Tegan & Sara put on a fantastic show even if the crowd was subpar, and 3EB was a great choice to close it all out. We hope that Artsquest not only increases the number of these paid Levitt concerts next summer, but they also think about having a show or two in winter (similar to Radio 104.5’s WinterJam) or spring.