Blink-182 at the O2 Arena
This Blink-182 concert was long overdue. And not just because the last time I caught them live was in 2003 – exactly 20 years ago. When a band as seminal as they are, whether in punk rock or any other genre for that matter, takes a hiatus, undergoes lineup reshuffles or drops an album seldom if ever, it’s a loss for the entire music scene. If Oasis made rock more mainstream, giving it that pop edge, Blink certainly did the same for punk. Enema of the State? That’s their What’s the Story (Morning Glory). And, honestly, how can you not love a group with two equally brilliant songwriters? It’s such a rare duality. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to figure out if I’m more partial to Mark Hoppus or Tom DeLonge’s songs. To this day, I’m still on the fence.
I arrive just as Anthem Part Two is ending – thank goodness it was the opener, since when do punk acts start on the dot? The energy from The Rock Show is palpable, goosebumps rise across my arms. Hoppus is fully in the zone and DeLonge is deeply immersed in his guitar craft, serving up electrifying melodic riffs one after another. It’s a stark contrast from the more laid-back style in their younger years.
Blink are still very much Blink, and Family Reunion sets the beginning of a series of juvenile, crude – and incredibly funny – jokes. These are just brief interludes in an otherwise remarkable performance. In fact, seconds later, the bassline of Man Overboard kicks off and my heart starts racing. I’m instantly transported back to its 2000 release, when this single confirmed that Enema of the State was far from being a one-album wonder. The way the two singers’ vocals complement each other – Hoppus’s deeper, soothing tone and DeLonge’s angst-inducing higher pitch – is phenomenal and mirrored seamlessly in their instruments.
The setlist mixes up the best from their three most iconic albums, a few gems from the rest of the discography and, naturally, a good chunk of tracks from the soon-to-be-released One More Time. As the evening progresses, the significance of their 2003 self-titled record becomes notable. This album marked quite the departure from their typically lighthearted style. Songs such as I Miss You, Down and Violence signalled a phase of venturing into new directions, even beyond the band’s realm. During the subsequent hiatus in 2005, their solo projects +44 and Angels and Airwaves felt like continuations of this journey. And while Hoppus, in Blink, might just have the edge, DeLonge, with AVA, crafted more noteworthy albums.
Neighborhoods (2011) wasn’t their finest effort but the two songs they’ve picked to play tonight – Up All Night and Ghost on the Dance Floor – showcase so much of their solo material style that it’s a genuine joy to hear them live. The latter especially feels as if it’s been lifted straight from an AVA record, more introspective not just lyrically but also with its ethereal sonics. And if this song leans away from Hoppus’s touch, it’s fitting they also perform Bored to Death, from a time when DeLonge was absent from the band – channelling the vibe of +44.
But let’s focus on the true highlights of the night. It would be quite something if anyone managed to argue that Adam’s Song wasn’t the defining moment of this O2 show. Following a deeply moving introduction about his battles with depression and the recent ordeal of confronting stage-four cancer – “there were times when I felt I was f***ing dying, and days when I felt like I wanted to die […] this tour and this band are saving my life a second time” – Hoppus starts to sing in the most spellbinding manner, elevated by DeLonge’s killer riff and Travis Barker’s powerful drumming. It’s all so intense yet subtly delivered, his voice resonating throughout the arena like a cry for help.
For intensity, Stay Together for the Kids is probably the closest contender, but in terms of jumping off the seat and singing your heart out, What’s My Age Again? and All the Small Things are unrivalled. The former, with that immediately recognisable combination of guitar and bass in the intro, and its lyrics expressing the struggles of a generation with adulthood, is truly an all-time anthem. It’s up there with Smells Like Teen Spirit, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Basket Case and Yellow.
As we get closer to the end, Dammit turns out to be the surprise of the evening. I’ve always appreciated it but being so familiar with its original recording – before the major label transition that gave Blink a more polished feel – I wasn’t ready for this more mature rendition. It’s still raw, but there’s added depth, and Barker’s drumming lends a solid backbone. In a cheeky twist, Hoppus even incorporated a bit of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Getting Back Together, playing with the song’s breakup theme.
Of the new tracks, Dance with Me stood out as a great live number, its catchy chorus making for an instant sing-along. Alien Exists follows and it’s evident they belong to different leagues. You just can’t get enough of the classics, from Dumpweed to Reckless Abandon and First Date.
The band return for an encore with the title track from their reunion record, One More Time. It’s a heartfelt song for a heartfelt moment; the lyrics touchingly describe the personal struggles within the band: “From strangers to brothers, from brothers into strangers once again […] Do I have to die to hear you miss me? […] I miss you, took time, but I admit it”. Here’s hoping it marks the beginning of a new chapter for this legendary act.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit Blink-182’s website here.
Watch the video for One More Time here: