You gotta give it to Stephan Jenkins, Third Eye Blind’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist, he’s squeezing every bit of joy from life these days. The iconic band from the 90s played a Sunday evening set at ACL Fest that saw him bouncing around the stage in all black and delivering a number of inspirational statements.
Just a few songs in, for example, he asked the crowd to show some courage and turn around and tell someone “I’m glad you’re here.” “Show me your true face,” he asked. “Now I’ll show you my true face.” Jenkins kept up this almost-uncomfortable earnestness for the whole hour, to varying degrees of success. “We’re not a MacBook Pro band,” he exclaimed at one point, emphasizing that his band played live instruments. It all felt a little cheesy, but you could tell he definitely believed it.
As for the music, the band played a balanced mix of old classics and new tracks from an album, Screamer, to be released Oct. 18. And I hate to be that person who’s like, “the new stuff really doesn’t work,” except that, well, the new stuff really doesn’t work. The band kicked off their set with the titular track from the new album, and the performance made me super worried that Jenkins’ voice was extremely weak these days and that the whole set would be a challenge. But really, the band just seems to be making new songs that don’t suit his current range and vocal strengths. He killed it on every classic track: “How’s It Going to Be,” “Graduate,” “Never Let You Go,” “Semi-Charmed Life” and especially “Jumper,” which gave me goosebumps just like the good old days.
Another fun thing I noticed: Jenkins seemed clearly at his most comfortable when wielding his acoustic guitar. That was when his instrumentals really shined and when his voice was the most relaxed and pretty. Appropriately enough, the acoustic was his guitar of choice for most of those 90s classics. My favorite moment of all? The band’s performance of an old deep track, “Motorcycle Drive By.” It was soft and smart, offering a really nice contrast to the forced and stale pop-punk-ish vibes of the band’s new songs.
TBH, I think maybe Jenkins’ next calling is as an acoustic singer-songwriter? Just musing here.