At some moment during “Jumper,” I realized just how painfully ironic Third Eye Blind’s appearance at Spring Fling was. “You can put the past away,” the song cries at its climax. And on Tuesday, all of the Yale students in the crowd were screaming along because everyone can put his or her past away. Everyone, that is, except for Third Eye Blind.
They were ostensibly hired to play their three hit singles: “Never Let You Go,” “Semi-Charmed Life” and the aforementioned “Jumper.” Never mind the fact that those songs are 14 years old. I get the feeling that it must be terribly boring to play concert after concert focusing just on those three hits, especially when you’ve been continually making more music since.
But if Third Eye Blind minded, they sure didn’t make it obvious. Because those three songs were really great when I heard them on Old Campus. They played extended jam versions, even interpolating the chorus of Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” into “Semi-Charmed Life” at one point. People were jumping up and down, throwing their hands into the air. During those moments, Third Eye Blind represented the fulfilled promise of our childhoods and the whimsical nature of our shared cultural flashpoints. Those few moments were like magic.
In some regards Third Eye Blind was actually the best Spring Fling act possible. They had legitimate, important hits, yet the passing of time means they also have lowered their earning expectations, keeping them affordable. They appealed to the Sincerity crowd, the Irony crowd and the Post-Irony crowd in equal measures, perhaps only disappointing the people who are too cool for school (but they don’t show up to Spring Fling anyway) and the people who did not listen to American music in the ’90s.
Still, they had the misfortune of taking the stage as cloud cover blanketed Old Campus, ruining the previously beautiful day with the (thankfully unfulfilled) promise of rain. Things felt much sadder after the clouds cast a pallor on the faces of Yalies. The energy picked up when Third Eye Blind played their upbeat, popular tracks — a testament to the staying power and universal appeal of those songs — but suffered from a depressing lag when they played their newer material. It seemed as though the crowd didn’t know what to do. The music wasn’t catchy enough to dance to, familiar enough to scream to, nor chill enough to just enjoy. It kind of hung in the air, under the clouds. At its best, it was a performance that no person who enjoys hearing guitars could object to. At its worst, it was offensive and/or annoying.
So yeah, it has to be said: that stuff Third Eye Blind said about lesbians before launching into a song containing the lyrics “You fucking whore, I’ll kill you” was a little weird, if not totally inappropriate, even if (especially if) he dedicated it to gay and lesbian members of the military.
But maybe that’s the reason to be a career rock musician, even through those decades when your relevance has hit a brick wall. The world expects you to have self-destructed by now, 14 years after your first hit. But you’re still around, making music competently if not interestingly, playing your hits crisper and with more energy than they had on the record. You’ve settled into middle-class life; your earnings from tours make about the salary of those who went the more sensible route and became doctors or lawyers. But you keep the rock star dream alive by acting a little nutty on stage.
It’s okay, I understand. Everyone’s got to face down the demons.