Friday, July 31, 2015

Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional concert review: Irvine, Calif.

photo by Drew A. Kelley
Stephan Jenkins was in an enigmatic mood at Irvine Meadows on July 27.
Hiding in a hoodie, the Third Eye Blind singer and his bandmates emerged onstage shrouded in dim lighting for the strange intro to their blaring hit "Graduate." That aloofness continued into the next song, "Blinded."

A short time later, during the infectious top 10 single "Never Let You Go," Jenkins encouraged openness and mutual introductions among concertgoers. "We can get beyond ourselves together and presume we're all friends," he said.

One week after a freak rainstorm flooded the venue's main entryway and led to the initial concert being postponed, devoted Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional fans returned in droves. "We made it. I'm so grateful to all of you for coming back," said Jenkins.

Last month, 3EB put out "Dopamine," the first studio album in six years. Recorded in analog, several songs are about searching for authenticity. Despite a few wobbly lyrics, it still contains some of the alt-rock band's best material since 1997's hugely successful self-titled debut CD.

Playing alongside founders Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargraves, the other musicians definitely proved their mettle in O.C. "Crystal Baller" and "Losing a Whole Year" (prefaced by the stripped down Beyonce cover "Mine") were brawny as ever, while newer tunes like the mildly funky, David Bowie-referencing "Rites of Passage" (including a snippet of U2's "With or Without You") and bleak "Back to Zero" came across strongly live. Meanwhile, subdued lesser known tracks "Slow Motion" and "Motorcycle Driveby" really got the diehards engaged. 

Since this gig marked the end of the tour, Jenkins' vocals were a bit frayed at times, but nothing major. Toward night's end, 3EB impressed with the exultant main set closer "Jumper" and an extended take on best known smash "Semi-Charmed Life." Both went down a storm.
photo by Drew A. Kelley
Anyone who assumed Chris Carrabba would be pouring his heart out with an acoustic guitar and minor instrumental backing what often happened in the early 2000s (see: platinum seller "MTV Unplugged 2.0") were mostly in for a surprise.

Clad in a flannel shirt and ripped jeans, the wirey Dashboard Confessional main man and his cohorts - including longtime bassist Scott Schoenbeck - did an exhillarating hourlong set that frequently veeered into melodic hardcore territory.
Carrabba thanked those in the crowd who "powered through" the scuttled show's mess and opened with a blaring "The Good Fight." It was the first of five selections from 2001's "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most." 

Grinning from ear to ear and possessing an unbridled energy, Carrabba's dramatic vocals made a major impact on "No News is Bad News," the strident "Vindicated" (with guest piano work by 3EB's Alex Kopp), an aggressive "Don't Wait" and "The Best Deceptions." Carrabba's fragile side also shone through during the winsome ballad "Stolen" and majestic, piano-based "Belle of the Boulevard." A.J. Cheek played the life out of his electric guitar, at one point going so far as lying on the floor while turning in circles.

The real treat came when Carrabba gave the crowd a taste of his Americana group Twin Forks and did their delightful "Back to You" with one of its members. Other standouts from the Taylor Swift-approved band included best known songs "Screaming Infidelities" and finale "Hands Down."

A version of this review originally ran at

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