The last time I saw Blink-182 was 20 years ago at an all-ages show in a barn in the foothills outside Fresno. This was before Travis Barker came in on drums. They were still a mostly obscure punk band.
In the intervening years, the trio became the darlings of the post Green Day pop-punk scene. Their sophomoric anthems became radio hits and their mainstream fan base packed arena shows – as was the case for the band’s stop at Save Mart Center Thursday night.
In many ways, Blink-182 still are a bunch of jerky punk kids. They did open the set with the word “f--k” in rolling flames behind them and played a song that’s entire lyrical content was curse words – ending in “I f---ed your mom.” Classy.
While the band hasn’t quite matured, it seems to have outgrown the 20-somethingness.
That’s especially obvious on material from their latest album. They played several tracls from “California” and they were surprisingly the best moments of the night. “Los Angeles” in particular made me want to buy the album.
This is the band’s first tour since guitarist Tom DeLonge left. His replacement, Matt Skiba, did much of the heavy lifting here.
Of course, Blink-182 comes into these kind of arena shows at a disadvantage. It’s hard to fill that stage with just three members and Blink’s song structures don’t allow for much mobility. Skiba and bassist Mark Hoppus are forced to stay close to the mic stands. At moments, even the fastest and thrashiest of their songs didn’t have quite the visceral punch to fill the space – from where I was sitting, anyway.
But the band made great use of a simple stage plot and several videos screens and by the end the one-hour-plus set they were as on point and intense as they were for the first song. Maybe more so.
Bottom line: Blink-182 made a new fan.
Also on the bill were All American Rejects, who opened the night with a 45-minute set of retro power pop distinguished by tight vocal harmonies, dance-y riffs and keyboard backing. The Oklahoma band set the tone for the night in terms of on-stage energy (high) and antics (foul-mouthed and funny). Singer Tyson Ritter’s crowd banter was stand-up comedy-level stuff, especially the bits about his just-grown mustache and the rich fans sitting in the box suites.
A Day to Remember followed. Early in the set singer Jeremy McKinnon screamed at the crowd: “Fresno, are you ready to kick it up a notch!?”
The band did just that, with its stage production, volume and speed of its music and its interactions with the crowd. They had a dude in his underwear and a monkey mask, shooting T-shirts at fans. They threw rolls of toilet into the crowd. Much of it made it back on stage.
ADTR is pop-punk, I guess, but aggressively so and punctuated with chugging blasts of guttural metal. It is music to mosh to and the floor of the arena was a swirling mess of limbs for a good part of the band’s hour-long set. At one point the barricade was overrun with a continual wave of crowd surfing fans.
▪ Saw a guy wearing a Cole Swindell hat, just by coincidence.
▪ A Day to Remember kicked off their set by releasing beach balls into the crowd. Blink-182 had blow up dolls.
▪ Blink-182 played a song in the dark. Well, the arena lights were all off, but the place was pretty lit up by cell phones. Still, it was cool.
▪ Stop trying to make DJs before rock shows a thing. Although this guy had some scratching skills.
▪ This could be the first time the headliner stage setup and production was smaller than the support act.
▪ Again, reserved seating seemed to be just a suggestion in my section.
▪ Note to all bands thinking of using pyrotechnics inside Save Mart Center: DO NOT. They are too loud and kinda scary and not as cool as you think.