It’s a testament to the Manchester scene, and all involved with it, that tonight’s gig is going ahead at all. Following the horrendous events on 22nd May, the Manchester Arena cannot host events until September. Fortunately, the Castelfield Bowl has stepped in, and is able to provide the pop-punk veterans with a home for the evening.
It may be the city’s collective resolve following a difficult few months, or simply the nature of Blink 182 fans in general, but there is a palpable party atmosphere heading into the show. Indeed, even the drizzle cannot dampen the spirits of those in attendance.
Blink bound onto the stage with their typical frat-boy goofiness. Kicking things off with ‘Feeling This’, the opening track from 2003’s self-titled record, new-boy Matt Skiba gets proceedings underway in emphatic style.
What follows is a 90 minute retrospective from Blink’s extensive back-catalogue. Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker have been playing many of these tracks for the better part of two decades, and know what their fans want to hear; so it’s no surprise that set-list staples ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘Dammit’ go down a storm. Similarly, tracks from latest record California-the first recorded with new guitarist and co-frontman Matt Skiba-receive a warm reception from the crowd, and are performed with a swagger seldom seen from a band whose members have been performing together for less than two years.
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What is surprising is the amount of material played, which was initially recorded with former frontman, Tom DeLonge. Given the animosity of the two previous splits with DeLonge, it was widely accepted that most of these songs would never see the light of day again. However, ‘Reckless Abandon’, ‘Violence’, and, of course, old favourite ‘All the Small Things’ find their way straight into Nu-Blink’s set. Not only that, but Matt Skiba does the majority of these numbers justice, and, in the case of ‘Reckless Abandon’, truly makes the song his own.
As enjoyable as the show it, it is far from perfect. Blink has never been the tightest of live acts, and today is no exception. With the addition of Matt Skiba, fans had hoped that there might be an increase in quality to the live performances, but any changes are only incremental. The opening guitar riff to ‘Rock Show’ is one of the band’s most recognisable, but this is completely fluffed by Skiba early in the set. There are also some tracks-notably ‘First Date’-which sound completely wrong without DeLonge’s signature screech. This no fault of Skiba’s, however, and his effort is never in doubt.
One thing that is missing from this incarnation of Blink, is the between-song interaction between Hoppus and DeLonge. While plentiful dick-jokes are far from an essential part to a band’s live show, it’s something that has always been associated with Blink, and is notable by its absence.
Outside of the band’s control, the sound from the stage was also slightly muted in places; although this may be more down to the stage setup being tailored for an arena show, rather than an outdoor venue. Coupled with this, the Castelfield Bowl is situated in a residential area, which undoubtedly put further restrictions on the volume.
Sound and weather issues aside, this is a solid, if not spectacular, live show. Fans will go home happy, and the well-earned love for the band at the rock show, will surely give fans reason to forgive all the small things.