BY JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
This week has been a whirlwind for me. My emo heart has exploded into a million pieces with all of these nostalgic bands playing shows again thanks to Covid (I don’t think it would’ve happened otherwise – at least not in this capacity), and last night was no different. While I’m told that the show didn’t sell as well as the venue anticipated (I mean, it’s Phoenix, where there’s always 100 shows going on around the Valley), you’d never know it from the adoring crowd that poured their hearts out on a Thursday night on August 4, 2022, at Arizona Financial Theatre as Taking Back Sunday and Third Eye Blind played their guts out to an audience who moshed, cried, made-out, slow danced, and everything in between.
I can almost remember the first time I heard “Semi-Charmed Life” on the radio during the summer in the late 90s at the pool with friends.
We didn’t have a care in the world.
We were young and restless.
The song came on, and it was an instant headbanger.
We didn’t know the song was about meth.
We also didn’t know that Stephan Jenkins was one of the most prolific, deep, and meaningful songwriters of our generation.
It would take me the better part of a decade to fully realize what Jenkins was writing about in his music, but he hasn’t lost step in how he words what he words. And to be frank, the only other artist I would put on par with what he does would be Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem, but that’s a comparison for another day.
Anyway, on to the show!
We weren’t permitted to photograph the opener, Hockey Dad, because I guess they’ve got a separate PR team, and I wasn’t allowed into the building until closer to 7:30pm, so I didn’t get to see any of their set (which is ok, because neither did any other media outlet there, so we’re all in the dark on how they really did).
However, Taking Back Sunday was incredible, and they put on a great show. From the moment they took the stage, fans were screaming, “WE LOVE YOU ADAM!”
And love him they did.
Vocalist Adam Lazzara danced the night away in front of adoring fans who hadn’t seen them in a while as they played hits such as “Make Damn Sure,” and “Liar (Takes One to Know One)” while every single show-goer pelted the lyrics right back to the band.
“So we’ve got a new song,” Lazzara said. “And I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking, ‘We haven’t heard anything new from this band in a long time,’ and you’re right! But that’s what makes us the best band in the world – we’ve got a new song!” They then played, “Just Us Two,” which is an absolute banger, and I’d highly recommend checking it out!
They were pretty spread out on the stage, but that provided Lazzara enough room to pull some fancy mic tricks as he danced his boots off from one side to the other, engaging the fans in a way that only he could.
When their set was wrapped up, it was time for the headliner.
Stephan Fuckin’ Jenkins.
Their stage set up was pretty elaborate, which makes sense having spotted the two semi-trucks parked behind the venue. It was a very earthy scene as what looked like twig-lined rafters were set up all the way from the floor to the ceiling, and the light show was a spectacle to behold all on its own (big props to Arizona Financial Theatre for having one of the best light displays I’ve seen in the Valley so far).
I took full advantage of being able to photograph the entire set from anywhere in the building after the first three from the pit, and while it was a hot mess towards the end (literal steam could be seen rising in the building), it was an amazing show from one of our generation’s most important voices on not just social justice but also the incredibly deep and personal journey of Jenkins as a person.
“This year marks the 25th anniversary of this band,” he told the audience before he played an acoustic set. “And an anniversary like that makes you take stock of who you are as a person, and what this band is. And I’ve gotta tell ya, we’re still trying to figure that out.”
But whatever they might be to themselves, they were the sole (or soul, depending on how you view it) purpose behind a lot of the attendees that night. And from a full-scale grand piano to multiple guitar changeouts, they certainly didn’t disappoint.
The set list was a frothy mixture of mega hits and some lesser-known tracks, but of the 20+ songs that they played that night, none was a bigger hit than “Semi-Charmed Life” which was played immediately after calls for an encore where the fans held up their phone lights towards the stage and chanted in unison, “ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG!”
Jenkins had made a point to tell the audience that his voice wasn’t where he wanted it to be that evening, and slowed down on “Semi-Charmed Life” a bit to let the crowd take over before saying, “Thank you all for helping me to find my voice tonight,” before pelting out the remainder of the song. One audience member told me that he saw them live in 1999, and there was a noticeable improvement on his vocal range during this performance.
And for me personally, getting to not only see and hear, but photograph one of my childhood giants, a vocal hero and prolific songwriter, was a once in a lifetime experience. From start to finish, there wasn’t one part of the performance that was better than another, as the entire affair I think was meant to be absorbed as a whole rather than in parts.
But I wouldn’t expect anything less from an outfit like Third Eye Blind, who continues to pack hidden meaning into their music, and undoubtedly, their performances. I’m sure I’ll be dissecting this one for just as long as I tried to figure out their self-titled 1997 album, but for now, I’m just basking in the experience, the meaning I found in the performance, and the nostalgia.
Other notable tracks that were played include, “Losing A Whole Year,” “Box of Bones,” “Graduate,” and “Crystal Baller.”
I’m back at the pool with friends.
And in this moment, I no longer have a care in the world.
But just as restless.
Big shout out to the folks at Live Nation for putting on this show, and special mention to Kelly Fox for working with us photographers to ensure the evening went off without a hitch for us and the audience alike. Security was top-notch, super friendly, and I honestly can’t wait until I catch another show at this incredible venue. Pat yourselves on the back, Arizona Financial Theatre – for my first experience in your venue, I was blown away.
Until next time friends, remember to stay hydrated, tip your bartenders, keep wearing deodorant, and be kind to each other. These shows only happen with your support, so keep that shit up! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish this popsicle before I get back in the waters.
Third Eye Blind
Taking Back Sunday