In the two years since blink-182 graced these shores a lot has happened. Founding member Tom DeLonge left under a cloud of drama, only to be replaced by Matt Skiba. Then came the warmly received ‘California’ LP and its accompanying deluxe edition. While Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Skiba have proved themselves on record, we’ve yet to see them as a collective in the UK. Supported by a stellar support pair of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and The Front Bottoms, tonight has all the ingredients of being an entertaining yet intriguing night.
“We’re here to try and get the party started” greets Brian Sella as New Jersey folk punks The Front Bottoms begin their 30 minute opening slot. They keep things casual with various crew and a certain Mr Hoppus getting the best seat in the house by sitting on a couch placed centre stage. Nevertheless, their jangly acoustic-centric sound is convincing enough in an arena setting. As drummer Matthew Uychich bashes his way through songs such as ‘The Beers’, ‘Maps’ and ‘Twin Size Mattress’, Sella sings tales of lost friends, getting stoned, and the unknown future. (2.5/5)
Mr. Frank Turner is no stranger to Nottingham. Having headlined this very arena just a few years back, he celebrated his 2000th show at Rock City this past November. As you’d expect, Turner & The Sleeping Souls have all the gusto you’d expect from an experienced band playing large venues. With just an hour to fill, they use their time ideally with a range of fan favourites. From the opening moments of ‘Get Better’ to ‘Photosynthesis’ to ‘Four Simple Words’, their choice of songs is almost flawless. While Turner is charismatic in between songs, joking how the “headline band” is in the middle of the three band bill. For both longtime admirers and new fans seeing Turner and company for the first time, this is a satisfying display setting the bar high for tonight’s (proper) headliners. (4.5/5)
With a Union Jacket covered by blink-182’s smiley face logo covering the stage and the ‘Stranger Things’ theme ringing out, the trio launch into ‘Feeling This’ with the familiar “FUCK” sign lit up on fire behind them.
While the Blink of old would waste time with forced “banter”, this new incarnation prefers to deliver feel-good pop-punk in abundance. From classic singles ‘The Rock Show’ and ’Down’ to new favourites ‘Bored To Death’ and ‘Cynical’, the trio know how to please this crowd. On older cuts, Skiba’s vocals delivery is varied. He pulls off ‘Reckless Abandon’ and ‘I Miss You’ with ease, almost making the former his own. As a collective, Hoppus, Barker and Skiba sound and look comfortable and confident together. While accompanying graphics and the occasional pyro merely add to the spectacle.
However, don’t think blink-182 aren’t here to just deliver a standard arena rock show. As they ask the crowd light up the arena with mobile phones, something that is accustomed to a ballad-esque number, they blast out the comedic ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’. While the inevitable encore inclusion of ‘All The Small Things’ has never sounded so momentous, before ‘Dammit’ ends the night in a sea of confetti with Barker showing why he’s one of the world’s most beloved drummers.
With a wealth of songs at their disposal, including those absent from this set, blink-182 still have plenty to give. And with a convincing Matt Skiba firmly in place, there are still plenty of miles left in this pop-punk machine. (4.5/5)
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86). Photo Credit: Austin Henry Wallace