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Blink 182 Brings Big Tour and New Songs to Harford and Mansfield

August 16, 2011 1 comment

Two summers ago, Blink-182 made their triumphant return to stages across the country after what had been a five year hiatus. With support from rock heavyweights such as Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Taking Back Sunday, the trio packed giant amphitheaters nearly every night, delighting not only long-time fans, but also a legion of younger fans who had discovered the band since their break-up.

When the band announced they would headline the 2011 Honda Civic Tour along side My Chemical Romance, it seemed as thought not much had changed. Not only would they play most of the same venues, the dates and tour routing was strangely similar to their 2009 effort. Also, fans still hadn’t heard any new material from the band since 2003, and there was still no release date set for their long anticipated new record.

I couldn’t help but suspect that Blink was set to become the Dave Mathews Band of pop-punk. Content with touring the same venues every summer and playing the same songs, they would rake in the profits without actually do anything new or exciting.  Luckily, as the tour grew closer, things began to change. The band set a September release date for their new album and then debuted studio versions of not one, but two brand new songs. Suddenly the band wasn’t just shaking off the rust, as they had been two years ago. Instead, they set out to prove they still have what it takes to write the monster hits that launched them to stardom in the first place and give their thousands of fans a reason to actually buy music again.

Considering that the Civic Tour would visit just about every worthwhile city in America (and many non-worthwhile cities as well), it was easy to see multiple dates of the tour. I attended the Mansfield, Mass show on Tuesday, August 9th, and the Hartford date the following Sunday.

Each night started with a 30 minute daylight set from Georgia’s Manchester Orchestra. All three of the band’s records have earned rave reviews from critics, and the quintet has also seen a surprising amount of radio success over the past two years. Of course, a decent amount of radio success doesn’t mean much when opening for a band as big as Blink, and at the Mansfield show the amphitheater was basically empty.

While the fans might have still been in the parking lot, the band’s performance left no doubt that they can handle such super-sized environments. As lead singer Andy Hull belted out each booming chorus, the rest of the band was spot on, and the presence of two drummers only added to these thundering tracks. At the Hartford show, the rain drove more fans into the pavilion earlier, and it seemed that at least some  were familiar with the band, as they received a big applause after each song. Highlights of the set at both shows included “My Friend Marcus” and “The River.”

Next up was My Chemical Romance, a band that did an admirable job conquering the rock radio charts in the time that Blink had been gone. By the time they took the stage, the venue was full at both shows, and it was obvious that nearly everyone was at least somewhat familiar with the band.

Their performance in Mansfield was at first marred by sub-par sound and the remaining sunlight, but as darkness fell and the mixing issues were worked out, the band hit their stride, tearing through their hits while shrouded in smoke and strobe lights. They ended up playing 10 songs in all, and while their Mansfield performance was solid, they were truly on their game five nights later in Hartford. Playing the exact same set, they motivated the crowd in the pit to bounce around to new tracks like “Planetary (GO!)” and inspired giant sing-alongs during hits like “Helena” and “Welcome to the Black Parade.”

The band would close with the epic “Famous Last Words,” leaving recent singles “Na Na Na Na Na” and “Sing” off the set list at both performances. Unlike Blink, the band seemed unconcerned with promoting their new album and instead gave even the most fair weather fan a few tracks to sing along to.

After a half hour wait, Blink-182 took the stage, although not in the grand curtain-dropping fashion they had two years earlier. Instead, the instantly recognizable trio of Mark Hoppus, Tom Delonge and Travis Barker sauntered onstage and kicked things off with “Feelin’ This,” the lead single from their 2003 self-titled album. Barker’s bass drum dominated the track, shaking the entire building during the chorus.

While the Hartford crowd did received a few extra surprises, the set list and crowd reaction to each song was just about identical for each show. However, being in the pit on both nights, I can say they felt very different. The Mansfield show was the experience you would expect from a performance at such a large venue. The pit there was very small. Only a few hundred pit tickets were available, and the majority of those were sold either as $250 “VIP” packages or $160 “premium” tickets. The vast majority of fans sat in seats or were soaked out on the lawn.

The Hartford venue, meanwhile, features a much larger pit area, and it seemed to welcome more rabid fans who were able to score their tickets at reasonable price. Because of this, the Hartford show felt like it was being played a sweaty rock club, as crowd surfers flew through the air throughout the entire set and everyone sang along.

Regardless of the venue, Blink would mix in four new songs among their set list of hits. The first, “Up All Night,” came directly after “Feeling This” and featured Mark and Tom trading vocals in the lead up to the song’s sweeping chorus. Being the new album’s first single, the majority of the crowd at each show seemed familiar with the track and roared their approval.

The band would then roll through more familiar hits, including “The Rock Show” and “What’s My Age Again.” In Hartford, Delonge would preform the second half of the latter song on his back after taking a tumble in front of the drum kit. Neither Hoppus nor the crowd would let him off the hook afterwards as he complained of the stage being too slippery. Throughout the first part of the set, the stage backdrop took on a Neighborhoods theme in celebration of the band’s upcoming album, as the video screens displayed a bird’s eye view of suburban towns. At one point, the setup mirrored the weather on both nights as digital rain poured down on the houses below.

In between songs Hoppus and Delonge were at their comedic best (or comedic worst, in Tom’s case). Each and every cheesy joke inspired either laughter or head shakes from the crowd, and after one particularly cringe-worthy antidote at the Mansfield show, Tom shouted out “you paid for the talking too!”

While Delonge certainly isn’t known for his superb singing voice, he has improved remarkably since the tour two years ago, and easily carried tracks such as “Violence” and “Dumpweed,” both of which inspired huge reactions from the fans in the pit. Tom also got in touch with his artistic side, performing Blink classic “Blowjob” at both shows and calling it one of the band’s greatest musical accomplishments. The Hartford crowd had the rare opportunity of hearing other similar tracks played live, including “Happy Holidays You Bastard,” which followed a brief Hoppus vs. Delonge on-stage volleyball match that bought Barker more time to clean up what was apparently an injured finger.

The crowd ate up just about everything Blink threw at them, including the three additional new songs. “Hearts All Gone,” which stands as one of the fastest songs the band has written in many years even inspired a huge circle pit on the floor. After approximately an hour and ten minutes, the band would close the set with “Josie.” At the Mansfield show, Hoppus would announce, “Travis can’t do the drum thing because of the rain but he still wants to show off for you,” which led to a ten minute solo performance by the drummer.

In Hartford, a black screen fell across the stage and when it was removed, Barker was strapped to the end of a giant mechanical arm from which he would then perform the solo. The giant arm gyrated around the stage and even tilted so that at one point barker was staring straight down at the crowd below.

Once Barker returned to the ground, he was joined again by Hoppus and Delounge for a three song encore that began with “Carousel” and then moved on to “Dammit,” which of course inspired the biggest reaction and sing-along of the night. Instead of walking straight off stage, the trio would stick around to play a small part of “Family Reunion,” and then take their bows.

All in all, both shows had been nothing short of a spectacle. The lasers, the rotating video screens that made up the backdrop, and of course the huge sound made these shows different and more spectacular than anything I would normally see. Mix in some very solid new songs and a pair of great openers and you have a very memorable tour that will be hard for the band to match in the future. But with a new album coming out and a willingness to change it up, at least we can take comfort in the fact they they’re going to try.

Blink-182 Soliders Through Tough Night in Hartford

September 7, 2009 Leave a comment

HPIM1350Blink-182

Weezer, Taking Back Sunday

Comcast Theater, Hartford CT

August 29th, 2009

The show started off just like any other. Thousands of eager fans streamed into the sold-out Comcast Theater, eager to finally witness the return of Blink-182. Most of them, including myself, missed Chester French, and then witnessed a bland set from Taking Back Sunday, followed by a fantastic one from Weezer. When Blink first took the stage, the crowd roared and Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge raced around the stage belting out the band’s biggest hits.

However, this was not a normal show, for during the band’s set, a teary-eyed Hoppus called this one of the most difficult shows the band had ever played due to the death of Adam Goldstein , aka “DJ AM.” Goldstein, who had died suddenly a day earlier, and had collaborated with Barker on a number of occasions (and). His death came as a shock to the music industry. Hoppus credited Goldstein with being an extremely talented musician, innovator, and friend. The band did their best to put on a great show, but it was often difficult to sing along to their bouncy pop-punk tracks after seeing the band so visibly shaken up.

The night started (at least for me) with a short set from Taking Back Sunday, marking the third time I had seen the group this summer. Unlike their memorable performance at the House of Blues in Boston in June, they seemed out of their element playing on such a large stage before the sun had set. The band went through the motions, trying to look interested without much success. The crowd in the pit stood still and silent for the first half of the set, finally getting involved during “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” They may have been doing so more out of boredom than actual excitement.

After the unfurling of a golden “Weezer” banner and a hilarious “Welcome to Harford” video introduction, the veteran act took the stage, minus HPIM1314front man Rivers Cuomo. After playing the opening cords of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” Rivers finally made his entrance, moving like a clunky robot and holding a football. As if this wasn’t strange enough, Weezer proceeded to rock the Sabbath cover as if it were their biggest hit.

The crowd seemed very confused. This changed with the intro to “Hash Pipe.” While this was a Blink-182 headlining show, you would have no idea based on the crowd’s reaction to nearly every song the band played. Weezer’s set was as enjoyable to watch as any I’ve seen recently, as Rivers egged on the crowd with his odd stage antics that included playing an accoustic guitar while jumping on a trampoline. It was obvious the Connecticut native wasn’t taking this opening slot lightly.

The set was so good because the band didn’t shy away from older material. Tracks from 1994’s landmark blue album were dominant and included “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Surf Wax America,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “My Name is Jonas,” and “Buddy Holly.” In addition to this, the band would include more of their best work, such as “The Good Life, “Pork and Beans,” and “Perfect Situation.”

HPIM1324While the entire set could be considered somewhat outlandish, two of the wackiest moments involved Cuomo playing “Island in the Sun” by himself, looping drum, bass, and backing vocals and then taking care of lead vocals while playing an acoustic guitar, which he then tossed into the crowd. While the guitar would have made for an amazing conversation piece for one lucky fan, it was quickly ripped to shreds, providing small souvenirs for a few dozen involved in the scrum.

Weezer would then finish the set the way they had started it: with another over. This time, it was The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” After a half hour wait, Blink-182 took the stage to the delight of the completely sold out pavilion. The band would race through seven songs, beginning with “Dumpweed” and finishing with “Stay Together For the Kids,” before an emotional Mark Hoppus would address the crowd about the tragedy that had struck the day before. The emotional address and moment of silence that followed cast a notable pall over the next few songs.

Tom Delonge attempted to lighten the mood with jokes, but was largely unsuccessful. Finally, he took a moment to address the crowd, saying music had always served as an escape for him, and tonight would be no different. This rare serious moment from HPIM1334Delogne was surprisingly heartfelt, and seemed to rally the crowd for the rest of the show.

The band would finished their set with “Josie” and “Anthem Pt. 2,” before returning for an encore that did not feature Travis Barker’s traditional “flying” drum solo. Seeing as Barker considered Goldstein a close friend, it was understandable why the drummer had no intentions of taking center stage on this night. Following “Carousel” and “Dammit,” the band would take their bows and leave the stage.

Hoppus’s mid-show address was unlike anything I’ve seen at a live show. The night was obviously very difficult for the band, and it was somewhat surprising they hadn’t postponed or canceled the show altogether. Overall, the trio deserves a great deal of credit for their performance. They sounded great and looked to be having a blast, even if this was not at all the case. While a tragic plane crash that had involved both Barker and Goldstein only a year earlier was the main reason Blink was back on stage together, it was difficult to take any positives from this most recent tragedy.

Blink-182 Returns With a Bang

August 28, 2009 2 comments

HPIM1255Blink-182
Comcast Center, Mansfield MA
August 6th, 2009

In the days leading up to the show at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Ma, the idea of seeing Blink-182 live didn’t seem that strange. While they had gone on “indefinite hiatus” five years earlier, seemingly never to speak again, the announcement of their return in February didn’t come as a surprise. Since that Grammy night announcement, the band had played a number of small shows and made countless late night TV appearances, stepping back into the spotlight as if they had never really left.

However, when the unmistakable trio of Mark Hoppus, Tom Delonge and Travis Barker took the stage before 20,000 screaming fans, I couldn’t help but be shocked, even if it was only for a moment. It was really happening. Hoppus and DeLonge, who had barely acknowledged each other’s existence for nearly half a decade, were back to licking each other’s necks and making crude jokes. Barker, who was nearly killed in a tragic plane crash only a year earlier, was back behind the kit providing the band’s background, and the fans that seemingly stretched on forever were singing along like it was 2003. Most impressively, Blink was tearing it up, sounding better than they ever had before. In the end,  the band made everyone forget (+44), Angels & Airwaves, the indefinite hiatus, and all the bickering, proving they were back and in a big way.

Before the headliners would take the stage, the night began with two big name openers, and one very awkward one. The latter was Boston’HPIM1168 own Chester French. Their set, played in broad daylight before thousands of empty seats, included multiple attempts to get the crowd interested, all of which were miserable failures.  Luckily, the band made a quick exit after only twenty minutes.

With the sun still shinning, Panic! at the Disco took the stage to a smattering of applause and launched into a set consisting of material mainly  from their wildly successful 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The quintet has fallen on some hard times of late with the flop of their second record Pretty, Odd, and the July departure of guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker. However, neither of these things seemed to bother lead singer Brandon Urie who bounced around the stage as he belted out all of the band’s hits. The only other time I had seen Urie and Co. was when they had opened for Fall Out Boy in October 0f 2005. At that show, they had been ear-splittingly bad, relying on recorded beats and stage antics to cover up for their lack of talent. What a difference four years makes. After throwing in Pretty, Odd tracks “Nine in the Afternoon”  and “That Green Gentleman,” for good measure, the band make their exit.

HPIM1187Next up was Fall Out Boy, who had headlined the same venue two years earlier and were in the midst of their final tour before taking a well deserved break in 2010. While their set did run close to 45 minutes, it seemed to fall flat due to the fact that the band focused only on their hit singles. The band played only two tracks from their latest record Folie a Duex, the rather obnoxious “I Don’t Care” and “America’s Suitehearts.” While favorites such as “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” and “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” may have excited some in the crowd, that seemed quite tired to those who had seen the band in the past. This is not to say the band didn’t sound great, mainly because of lead singer Patric Stump’s spectacular vocal performance. Stump’s improvement over the past four years is nothing short of remarkable. If he were a baseball player, everyone in the crowd would be screaming for a drug test.

After Pete Wentz was finished with his rants and Fall Out Boy said good bye to the Boston area for the time being, anticipation began to rise for the return of Blink-182. An enormous black curtain was unfurled in front of the stage while the crew frantically readied what would be an immense stage production. As the crowd began to chant and those lucky enough to be at the front of the stage pushed forward, the lights in the enormous shed dimmed, and the curtain fell.

As the black curtain finally fell, there was a huge roar from the crowd, and the trio that had introduced thousands, if not millions to “punk music” HPIM1240stood ready, only a few feet from where I was being crushed by a few hundred other fans. They quickly burst into “Dumpweed,” and then followed  with “Feeling This” and “Rock Show.” As I mentioned in previous reviews, I am a fan of starting the show off strong, and Blink was doing just that.

One of the more surprising aspects of the show was just how good the band sounded. During their heyday, Blink was generally regarded as a terrible live band. They couldn’t play, they couldn’t sing, all they could do was make lame jokes. Suddenly, Mark and Tom both tore it up on their respective instruments, and Barker was his normal spectacular self behind the kit. Hoppus and Delonge raced back and forth from one edge of the enormous stage to the other, certainly in better shape than any of the sweaty and exhausted fans all around me. Of course, Tom doesn’t have the greatest voice, but while he was downright embarrassing as recently as the band’s national TV appearances, his vocal miscues were barely noticeable on this night as the fans helped to pick up the slack.

In between Tom Delonge jokes (some things never change) Blink played all of their hits, as well as a good portion of their last (and probably best) album, 2003’s Blink-182. While they were supported by an enormous backdrop and light show, it was the frantic movement of Hoppus and Delonge that took center stage. At times, the two displayed the chemistry that had helped to make them household names in the early part of the decade, most notably when Delonge licked Hoppus’s neck.

HPIM1274While the trio did stick mainly to their hits, there were a few surprises on the set list, including “Not Now” and “Man Overboard,” two b-sides which never made on to an official Blink record, but are just as good as any tracks that did. The band would close the set with “Anthem Pt. II,” and then return for the most memorable encore I’ve seen in a while. It began with Travis Barker performing a solo, from about 30 feet in the air. The all-world drummer was lifted above the stage on a platform that dipped and curved at perilous angles, thrilling those watching from down below. The stunt had been a staple of Blink sets even before the band when on hiatus, and it was obvious Barker was well-versed, dazzling the crowd for upwards of ten minutes.

Next was ”Carousel,” an early gem from the band’s 1993 cassette release Buddha, to the delight of longtime fans. “Damnit,” the band’s biggest hit followed, accompanied by showers of confetti. Despite its commercial success, the song remains a favorite of most Blink fans, which was quite obvious from the reaction it evoked. While everyone in attendance begged for more, we’re going to have to wait for another tour and another record. While both of these things seem quite up in the air, Blink’s performance on this night shows they would be foolish not to milk this reunion for all it’s worth. The band has returned from their self-imposed exile stronger than ever, and it’s hard to imagine their next record being anything but another huge success. Much like this tour.

Blink-182 Set List

    1. Dumpweed
    2. Feeling This
    3. The Rock Show
    4. Easy Target
    5. What’s My Age Again?
    6. Obvious
    7. I Miss You
    8. Stay Together for the Kids
    9. Down
    10. Always
    11. Stockholm Syndrome
    12. First Date
    13. Man Overboard
    14. Going Away To College
    15. Not Now
    16. Adam’s Song
    17. All the Small Things
    18. Reckless Abandon
    19. Josie
    20. Anthem Pt. 2
    21. Encore:
    22. Drum Solo
    23. Carousel
    24. Dammit