blink-182’s reunion tour is a beautiful, irreverent thing
When the lights at Barclays Center went down just after 9:30 PM last night (5/24), blink-182's smiley face logo appeared on the screen behind the stage, the crowd started screaming, and the screams only got louder as Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker walked out on stage, picked up their instruments, and smiled at the sea of fans who had been waiting a decade to see these three play together again. Without so much as a hello, they launched into "Anthem Part Two," and right away the show reached a high that rarely lulled throughout their 90-ish minute, 25-song set. They sounded huge, and seemingly every person was yelling every single word.
They pulled out all the stops at this show (pyro, confetti, on-screen visuals inspired by the various eras of blink imagery, Travis on a floating, spinning drum riser), but for all the arena rock signifiers, blink are pretty much still the same band they were when they were playing the Warped Tour, and in many ways they sounded better than ever. Other than a pre-recorded synth that played during "Ghost on the Dance Floor," I don't think I heard any backing tracks, and they didn't have hired-gun live musicians on stage the way a lot of bands do when they reach arena level. It's just the three of them up there, and they really sounded tight and filled the large room with sound, even during the songs whose studio versions do rely on more than a punk rock power trio. blink have been known for a lot of things over the years but--other than Travis--being immaculate live musicians is not exactly one of them. During their Y2K-era boom, they'd famously mess stuff up, and poke fun at themselves for messing stuff up, but that element is gone. They were nailing everything, were really a force on stage, and Mark and Tom's harmonies and dual-vocal parts really soared. Matt Skiba always did a fine job of holding things down when Tom was away, but the chemistry between Mark and Tom is really what makes blink-182 blink-182, and that was abundantly clear at this show. Whether it was the overlapping vocals in the last chorus of "Feeling This," or the harmonies on "What's My Age Again," Tom and Mark's voices came together to create something larger than the sum of their parts, and if there was ever any rust to shake off after a decade apart, it was completely gone by the time of the Barclays Center show.
Setlist-wise, blink's comeback tour has been rock solid whether you're a casual fan or an obsessive. They played every hit from Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and the untitled record, and that alone took up about half the set. They also picked a great selection of crowdpleasing deeper cuts, like "Reckless Abandon," "Violence," "Dumpweed," "Man Overboard," "Dysentery Gary," and the song that predicted the thing Tom may actually now be most famous for, "Aliens Exist." They played some Neighborhoods ("Up All Night" and the aforementioned "Ghost On the Dance Floor"); those songs really sound fresh these days, and the band seemed especially inspired while playing them. They did two songs from the Skiba era, "Cynical" and "Bored to Death," the latter of which is clearly a fan favorite at this point, and Tom seemed genuinely into playing it and happily led the crowd in its "whoa-oh" singalong. Even if I hoped Tom's return might mean more Dude Ranch and less California, I can't fault them for breaking those out or deny that it worked. They did their new single "Edging." They leaned into the meme-iness of "I Miss You," and sold shirts that say "Where are you?" at the merch booths. I don't know if they'd been doing this or if it was just because they were in Brooklyn, but they covered like ten seconds of "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House." They did joke songs (two) and told dick jokes (too many to count), and the juvenile humor was contrasted by some genuinely sweet and serious moments. "Always" was gorgeous, still one of the best Cure-esque lovesongs not by the actual Cure. Their broken home anthem "Stay Together for the Kids" hasn't lost any of the impact it had over 20 years ago. And the most emotional moment of all came during "Adam's Song." Mark introduced it by saying he wrote it during a dark time in his life, and told the crowd how he went through another dark time after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2021, which he successfully recovered from and is clearly so grateful to be able to tour again. They played the song with nostalgia-inducing footage of the band's late '90s / early 2000s days on the screen behind them, and the mix of being brought back in time and hearing this powerful song and being grateful for Mark's recovery could really pull at the heartstrings.
Like they used to do back in the day, they poked fun at the silliness of leaving the stage for a planned encore instead of actually doing that; this time, Mark introduced "What's My Age Again" as their "last song," and right after it ended he said, "Hey, we're blink-182, we're back, this is the encore." Then came three more of the band's biggest hits: "First Date" (which they've been opening with an homage to the Ramones' "Pinhead" and "Blitzkrieg Bop"), "All the Small Things," and finally, the only song they played from the pre-Enema of the State era, "Dammit" (which included a nod at TLC's "No Scrubs" during the bridge). It's obviously become a signature song for them, but it's still kind of amazing that this deceptively simple song from blink's scrappy punk rock days can still close out a set at a sold-out arena show with every person in sight singing along.
The lights went up after "Dammit," and as everyone headed to the exits, the PA played the Beastie Boys' locationally appropriate "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Mark had also stage-bantered with Tom about "NEXT TIME" they play Brooklyn... let's hope that happens sooner than later, especially since the band do have a new album on the way.
Something else that struck me about the show was, even after all the continued fame, blink still remember that they came from a punk scene, and they repped that. Tom's guitar was plastered with stickers of bands like Fugazi, Descendents, and TSOL. Old show flyers shown on screen included gigs with The Vandals, Ten Foot Pole, and Sense Field. I don't know how many times the words "Sense Field" appeared on screen at a sold-out Barclays Center show, but I would guess the number is low. They're also showing love to the current punk scene by having Turnstile provide direct support on the entire North American leg of the tour.
There were definitely a noticeable amount of Turnstile fans who showed up for them, though it was clearly a tougher crowd than when Turnstile headline to 6,000 of their own fans, but they still put on the same great, high-energy show you'd expect from them. They infiltrated the arena rock space with high-speed hardcore rippers like "T.L.C." and "Big Smile," and fan faves like "Mystery," "Fly Again," "Blackout," and "Endless" sounded as massive as ever. Daniel Fang took a drum solo that I'd imagine even Travis Barker was impressed by, and Brendan Yates worked the crowd with some call-and-response chants and a request for cell phone lights during "Alien Love Call." It's tough to see a Turnstile show and not fall in love, so here's hoping the blink-182 fans who got there early walked away with a new favorite band.
Before Turnstile, this show had additional support from power pop/hard rock revivalists White Reaper, and I unfortunately only caught the tail-end of their set but they sounded great (and loud) too. Check out videos and setlists from the show below and pics of the MSG show here.
blink-182 @ Barclays Center - 5/24/23 Setlist
Anthem Part Two
The Rock Show
Up All Night
(about ten seconds of) "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" by LCD Soundsystem
Happy Holidays, You Bastard
Stay Together for the Kids
Bored to Death
I Miss You
Ghost on the Dance Floor
What's My Age Again?
First Date (with Ramones' "Pinhead" / "Blitzkrieg Bop" intro)
All the Small Things
Dammit (with snippet of "No Scrubs" by TLC)
Turnstile @ Barclays Center - 5/24/23 Setlist
T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)
ALIEN LOVE CALL
blink-182 Albums Ranked Worst to Best
SEE ALSO: 15 best blink-182 side project songs