Review: Blink-182, Sydney 2013
Allphones "Cavernous Aircraft Hangar" Arena, Sydney
February 20, 2013
“I need a backrub, on my penis, with your Mum – right now!”
That’s guitarist Tom DeLonge. He’s nearly forty years old. Throughout the hour and a half-long victory march back into Australia on Blink-182's first tour in eight years, he’ll be dropping one liners like this and trading juvenile banter with co-frontman and bassist Mark Hoppus like they never grew up. And the truth is, they probably didn’t.
The greatest thing about watching this band in a massive arena setting is seeing how little they care for the trappings of rock stardom. It's easy to imagine they'd be happy playing songs about masturbating, highschool girlfriends and enemas to fifteen people just as much as five thousand of them. If they still look like carbon copies of themselves twenty years ago, they sound like it, too. DeLonge, with that trademark SoCal whine that works so well in upper-octave harmonies is spot on, and helps Hoppus through some of the tunes he can't quite nail anymore. But the bassist's lower, more gruff register is blossoming nicely, getting a proper airing on highlights from their self-titled ‘emo’ record, ‘I Miss You’ and ‘Feeling This.’
Did I mention how many people are here? Thousands. And most of them are young kids sneaking in joints and cans of rum in their shorts with tattoos of bands who ripped of Blink-182 before they were even conceived. This is saying something. For all their dick jokes and obvious pandering to sexual depravity, the overarching ideas of Blink’s music—loneliness, isolation, love, fucking things up and trying desperately to fix them—seem to have touched a cross-generational nerve. Witness the crazy screaming when they play ‘Josie’, a simple three chord song about a girl who stays up past 3am to hang out. Hear the hollering when they finally smash out ‘Dammit’. Something strange is afoot here.
Any doubts about Travis Barker’s rushed replacement are instantly put to rest by the otherworldly drumming of Bad Religion’s Brooks Wackerman (yes, that's his perfectly apt surname). Despite the absent drummer's celebrated ability on the kit, so much of the band's personality comes from Hoppus and DeLonge -- they just need someone willing to ruin his wrists among the toms and it doesn’t matter who it is. It’s to Wackerman’s credit that he seems brings a bit more of the metal to Blink’s sound, pushing a trio with not a lot of extra trappings into stadium level. He’s also great fun to watch.
Blink’s 2011 comeback record Neighborhoods sank pretty quickly after release, but the new songs sound a lot better when they’re in your face. In fact, it’s the older songs which don’t exactly hold up—aside from the mass sing-alongs—and it seems obvious that DeLonge and Hoppus clearly enjoy the more challenging rhythms (and, you know, notes outside of the root of every chord) of that release. By slotting these in among the favourites, they manage to create a relatively cohesive set with little downtime, despite some appallingly pedestrian visuals (Seriously, for $108 a pop, you’d be expecting inflatable ______ or at least some kind of pyrotechnics, right?). The arena-obligatory Let’s Bring Out Acoustic Guitars And Mini Drums And Stand Close Together encore is pretty cute, with ‘Reckless Abandon’ and ‘All Of This’ sounding sweet. And yes, of course they close on ‘Family Reuinion’, because what’s a band full of overgrown children without a 40 second song that uses every cuss word in the book?
A bucket list ticket for some, a new trip for others, Messrs Hoppus and DeLonge ticked mostly the right boxes for a band who probably didn’t even expect to be alive or with jobs in their forties. Yes, they’ve still got it and yes, it’s still massively entertaining. For such a lean band in such a big room, they kick out the jams.
(Photos: Clare Hawley)