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REVIEW: Blink-182 – The o2 Arena, London (20/07/17)

As we arrived at The o2 there was a great optimistic atmosphere in the air with thousands of people there for the rock show. Even before the concert had begun there was a lot of intrigue with Mark Hoppus only recently having an upper respiratory viral infection just days earlier and had to cancel the band’s show in Bournemouth under doctors orders.

The band were back at it in London the next day though and it seemed like things had cleared up for Mark’s voice enough to let that happen. Now we are onto night 2 of the London dates and for many (including myself) this was going to be the first time watching Blink-182 without Tom Delonge. The introduction of Matt Skiba on the band’s latest release “California” was a good indication of the band’s new direction and YouTube videos can give you some insight when it comes to Matt singing Tom’s old parts but seeing a “new” band member live is really where it makes a difference for most fans.

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As the fans were pouring into the arena, shocking news broke in the rock music world. Chester Bennington’s death had just been announced and those that were still outside the venue pre-drinking with the party atmosphere in full swing started to get the news. There was this strange feeling of “I wonder if those people know” and whether or not the band would know and if so, would they be cancelling the show? If Mark’s voice still had issues and news of a friend of the band (one of which they were about to go on tour with) passing away in shocking circumstances came out then it could have been quite the deck stacked against the show going ahead.

After reporting on the Linkin Park singer’s untimely death and taking in the shocked messages throughout social media, we funnelled into the arena to watch the Blink-182 concert we were there to see. The show was going ahead as planned and there was no mention of the big news during the show, we assumed the band had not been told with it breaking so close to their stage time. The band would send their love to Chester after the show on Twitter and cancel their “Blinkin Park” Tour.

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One thing I love at concerts is the hype before the artists come on stage and a great part of that is when an artist has entrance music. The Blink-182 boys came on stage to roars from the crowd layered over the amazing Stranger Things theme song which built suspense like no other. Travis Barker took us straight into the performance with the amazing drum intro to ‘Feeling This. Those who eagerly awaited to see what Matt would sound like live with Blink-182 would get their answers fast as Skiba would shout out his lead vocals as fireworks went off and the infamous flaming “F.U.C.K” sign showed up behind the band on the big screens. Blink-182 then swiftly moved into ‘The Rock Show‘ as the graphics changed to promotional artwork for Blink-182 shows highlighting the theme of the song, a trend that continued for the rest of the night and was perfectly executed.

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Next up was the first Matt Skiba era song with ‘Cynical’ starting with an infectious singalong with the crowd before Travis went into his fast tempo paced intro for the song. It’s no doubt that this band are still capable of writing songs that capture their original flavour really well.

The band then hit hard with classic hits from their back catalogue with ‘The Rock Show‘, ‘What’s My Age Again?‘ and ‘First Date‘. Something that really stood out from this point was how great the three piece sound together, with Matt coming into the band it wasn’t just vocal duties he was taking on but also lead guitar. It has to be said that the band sounded a lot tighter musically than in previous years. When I saw Blink-182 at Brixton Academy in 2014 it was during a time where they had been getting some negative press for playing quite sloppy. As a longtime fan of the band I had seen plenty of funny videos of them in their younger days mixing songs up, playing them way faster or Tom jokingly having to “think really hard and concentrate” when playing the more complex intro to ‘What’s My Age Again?‘. But those things seemed added to the mix of being under a microscope as the latest band to reunite, having grown up a lot since their first wave and Delonge’s vocal style changing. The newly reunited band seemed to get a hard time for it, especially at Reading & Leeds Festival, which seemed unfair. But with that in mind it does seem like since Matt Skiba joined the band there has been an effort to tighten up, even if it was just a matter of a new member coming in and having more pressure to nail the songs.

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The band followed up it’s hit train with the lead single from their most recent album ‘Bored to Death‘. The song is probably the most well known song from “California” and it shows, with the crowd getting strongly behind this one even with it’s slower pace taking things down a notch from the previous three faster paced classics. The great “Ohh, Ohh” singalong throughout is an easy one to feel unison with.

Matt Skiba’s guitar then rang out the chords for ‘Down‘ from the band’s self titled album, a song that has always got the crowd in a sentimental mood as it’s one of those songs that you hear and are just glad you’re at a concert or with friends. This version did feel that little bit more sombre though without Tom’s signature whine that gave the song a slightly more upbeat feeling, however the lyrics do match the style Skiba brings.

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Mark then asked for a different Bass and thanked the support bands before saying “This one’s for the ladies” as Travis built up the intro of ‘I Miss You‘, which was followed by soft tones from Mark that really let the audiences voices have space for the emotional singalong. The infamous “Where are you?Delonge whine was due next and with Skiba doing his part the crowd were sure to add their extra whines over the top anyway. The song got a great response as always and after bringing the audience down once more they brought them up with some humour with Mark practicing his English accent. He explained that all you had to do was “Put a ‘U’ in there, somewhere it doesn’t need to be” and you would get the accent. The crowd seemed to have already forgot about the girlfriends they had broke up with when they were 15 and it was time for the band to head straight into ‘Dumpweed‘.

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It was at this point that it really hit just how good Matt Skiba could carry some of these older Blink-182 songs, it’s one thing to nail a hit single that even karaoke artists have a good crack at but Matt’s performance for the Enema of the State track really shone for me. It was great to see Blink-182 play so many of their older songs, even with a “new album” and even with a “new band member” in the mix. Mark seemed really in his element during this song, getting to pace around the stage, jumping, singing to himself and just enjoying the gig. He followed up with a “F**k yeah, Matt!”, which got a roar from the crowd as he then encouraged Matt to sing another. Skiba then asked the London crowd to sing with him as he lead them into the singalong intro of ‘Reckless Abandon‘ and the band followed.

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Matt praised the audience claiming it was the “best singalong crowd of the whole tour“. Mark said that it was because it was the home of Oasis, which got a boo as they’re from Manchester. He then followed up saying that he was joking and he knew it was actually the home of The Beatles, which got a laugh as they’re from Liverpool. But, it was Matt who struck gold when he named London based The Damned to receive a cheer from the crowd.

The next two songs were both from “California“, firstly ‘She’s Out of Her Mind‘, which got a good reaction. It would have been good for the band to play some of the music video on the screens behind as I think it was a video that really helped bridge the gap between the two era’s of Blink-182 with a tribute to their ‘What’s My Age Again‘ video. Mark then introduced ‘Kings of the Weekend‘ explaining that it was a song about how he hates to get high, which got a laugh and a cheer.

blink182o2arena7Hoppus then explained that there was a small technical difficulty going on but as he was a professional… he knew what to do. He then followed it up with the cliche Rock n’ Roll “Are you guys having a good time tonight?!” to kill some time and then encouraged Matt to play the intro to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine‘, but he said he couldn’t but he did know how to play it on Bass. Thankfully this did kill some time for Travis to get ready again after the technical issue and his band mates cheered him on as he lead into a great drum solo surrounded by lights and smoke machines. Then it was built up with some guitar playing, flames shooting up and into eased into the classic ‘Violence‘. A song which kept up the high energy and ended the way it started with a display of Travis Barker’s drum skills, smoke and flames. Mark then appeared wiping his face with a towel and saying that it was very hot from the flames as we could all feel the heat in the arena now.

Up next came some more great visuals on screen to go seamlessly alongside the band’s performance of ‘Sober‘, the screen was full of interesting animated characters and of course, “four leaf clovers”. I really enjoyed this song live and I think it’s one that I am going to listen to a lot more now as a result.

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Mark then told the crowd “London night two gets a special song“, as he continued to hype the change in set list he told the eager gig goers “you’re gonna tell your grandkids about it” and that they would say “No f**king way” to which people who were there would reply “Shut your stupid mouth you dumb grandkid, we wish you were never born“. The cluster of unscripted humour was the perfect reminder of one of the reasons Blink-182 became so popular. The naturally funny band members and chemistry between them had not been lost over the years as they lead into ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’ with all the lights off surrounded by mobile phone torches as if it were a serious and slow ballad.

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Up next was another classic from “Enema of the State” as the band went straight into ‘Dysentery Gary‘, once again with awesome visuals behind them on the screens the crowd were treated to a great animated lyric video accompanying the performance which lead into some fantastic shots of Los Angeles to accompany the song ‘Los Angeles‘ from the band’s latest album.

The band left the stage abruptly as everything went dark and the crowd chanted for 5 minutes to get more until the noise of a guitar being picked up and the hi-hat counting in ‘All The Small Things‘ for the start of the band’s encore. The party mood was certainly back as the crowd sang with all breath in their lungs to the 1999 hit. The screens behind the band then showed the crowd themselves, which was a great touch and a “Kiss Cam” showed up briefly. I am not sure if there was a problem with it because it wasn’t up for long but it seemed like a great idea for this portion of the concert but there wasn’t much focus on it after the initial cheer of the graphic. Either way, the crowd shots of people on shoulders and hands flying everywhere was enough to mirror the excitement.

 

The last song of the night was the band’s first hit single ‘Dammit‘ and it was performed to perfection with more flames and pyro than the night had seen so far. Mark sang out “Thank you, o2, night two” as the confetti fell and the instruments rang out. To close the night Travis’ son Landon Barker got behind the drums to play for a little while with Matt on guitar and Mark on Bass wearing a Donkey Kong mask, the look of a proud dad waiting beside the stage was a nice visual.

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The gig ended and the crowd were in high spirits, after a night that started with confusion and mixed emotions at the end of it the crowd were going home from the rock show quite happily.

 

bandmerchad


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