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We rode to the Hard Rock Café in an old taxi, E, myself and V, a dear friend in town for the weekend. He wasn’t too familiar with the music of Third Eye Blind and ever since we bought tickets we’d been trying to describe to him what the band was all about and what the music meant to us. As we turned into the venue, I said, as an aside, “What I only hope is that this doesn’t end in crushing disappointment. Because when that happens you can never go back and listen to the songs, ever again.” With this cheery thought, we stepped into the HRC and began counting down to the performance.

The band came on almost exactly at the time they were expected to come on which is a major plus. When you’ve waited years to see an act, every minute counts. (Also when you have people’s belongings digging into your back you just want the music to start and hope it will distract you.) Frontman Stephan Jenkins stepped up to the mic and everything about his performance was balls-to-the-wall right from the start. The band played a mix of new and old songs in the first half and the crowd didn’t hold back on favourites, especially songs like Graduate and Never Let You Go. When they didn’t know the words to the newer songs there was clapping and some jumping around. It was a good crowd.

Between songs I’ve seen performers be emotional, hyperbolic, effusive, charming or just really polite but rarely as relaxed and conversational as Jenkins was. This wasn’t an artist telling India tour stories and us politely waiting for the next track to start. He seemed in really good spirits and it seemed we amused him somewhat too. So far, so good.

Just one problem at this stage – the sound. For almost the entire first half of the set, the songs were woefully missing a good mix, or a translation of a good mix into actual room acoustics. Jenkins’s voice, and all those cool guitar parts played by Kryz the Irishman, were hidden beneath a wall of sound that was far too sharp and glissy. I love the Hard Rock Café in Mumbai, their staff is very warm and the service is great, but they have to sort out the sound issues. All these amazing lyrics and that voice, getting completely lost, song after song. Come on, the guitarist overcame visa issues to make it to this gig! Ah well. Somewhere along the way Jenkins traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and we finally got to hear what he really sounded like – he was in top form.

The second half of the performance featured Deep Inside Of You, an extended version of Jumper, Slow Motion, Motorcycle Drive By (very loudly requested by people in my vicinity), and for a little bit of 2012 pop culture fun, a short cover of Calvin Harris’s dance hit Feel So Close. Yes, that song sung by that voice. As they said in the olden days, this was when several ladies probably had “the vapors”.

Now that we could hear Jenkins and the sound seemed to have settled we really got down to the business of enjoying the music so at the end when the band returned to the stage and the first bars of Semi-Charmed Life began, it was everything I imagined it would be. A full-on singalong that brought a smile to the band’s faces and this is where it gets really special. They were ready to sign off but after a short on-stage discussion Jenkins came back to play a song they have long retired. He didn’t know why we loved it so much, but they were going to play it because we asked – and then they played How’s It Going To Be. I’ve read in so many interviews that they don’t perform it any more so when the first bars rang out I convinced myself it was something else. The crowd went nuts and sang along to the entire thing. The band started to leave but the crowd wasn’t done, again making a request – God Of Wine. The band came back and played it. The crowd went nuts again and sang along.

We’ve been to gigs where bands have grudgingly played hits – this was not one of those gigs. The band was gracious and generous and clearly respected that the songs that may not mean as much to them anymore still meant a lot to the people in the audience that night. They played the heck out of them and they sounded incredible.

“Don’t you people get tired?” Jenkins laughed at some point earlier in the evening after yet another chorus of requests went up. How could we? We’d been listening to these songs for years – most started out on crappy speakers, unreliable headphones, portable CD players whose batteries drained too quickly and then dodgy mp3s. After all those years, we were finally hearing them directly from the band. That’s insomnia-inducing excitement for you right there.

The band deserves massive props for transcending the less-than-ideal sound and doing what we wish more bands would do – respect what the songs mean to the fans. We look forward to watching Third Eye Blind in Mumbai again.

Photo: Elvis D’Silva