Known for their jolly pop-punk and fart gags, behind the scenes Blink-182 have been having less fun. Putting aside drummer Travis Barker’s near-death experience in a 2008 plane crash, co-frontmen Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge’s entertaining onstage bickering took a turn for the worse when DeLonge quit the band for a second time in 2015, wishing to spend more time with his UFO conspiracy theories.
Hoppus and Barker had the last laugh, bringing in Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio and making a fun new album, California, that earned the band their first Grammy nomination and their first UK number one. In concert, however, while Skiba played his musical role flawlessly and offered strong lead vocals on songs such as Reckless Abandon and Anthem Part Two, he had little to say and couldn’t help but feel like a secondary member.
The lack of banter was glossed over thanks to the highly watchable Barker, who drummed like a man trying to get your attention from a distant hillside. The pyrotechnics blazed relentlessly too. Even their one sensitive ballad, I Miss You, culminated in a barrage of fireballs. A giant flaming F-word opened the show in suitably puerile fashion, despite the delayed-action U.
As ever, they performed their live favourite Family Reunion, an extremely short song constructed entirely from swear words, or as Hoppus put it, “A feat of derring-do unparallelled in modern musical history.” Taking them seriously was actively discouraged, whether it was the crude teen heartache of Dysentery Gary, or the riotous chorus of their biggest song, All the Small Things.
Yet there was a small hint of something darker in the new songs Sober and Los Angeles. They couldn’t have lasted since the Nineties without acquiring a little depth. For the three people on stage at least, this evening was no joke.