Live Review: Blink-182 – AO Arena, Manchester 15/10/23

When the news first dropped that Tom DeLonge was re-joining Blink-182 along with a new album in the works and the band embarking on a world tour, such was demand that tickets were sold out in minutes with the addition of several dates in the UK alone. New single ‘EDGING’ stormed to the top of the charts and fans appetites were well and truly whetted for the new era of the pop punk icons.

Fast forward eleven months and the initial dates of the UK tour encountered unexpected obstacles due to a family emergency, resulting in the delayed scheduling of the Glasgow, Belfast, and Dublin performances. However, this setback was somewhat mitigated by the anticipation generated from being introduced to new songs from the forthcoming album, along with the announcement of an official release date. In recent weeks, a number of these tracks have been released and promptly incorporated into the setlist, giving fans on this side of the pond the opportunity to get a live preview before fans in the US have their turn.

The Story So Far providing support:

At last, the highly anticipated moment has arrived for the thousands of fans gathered in the AO arena tonight. Excitement fills the air as the trio swiftly ascend the ramp onto their custom-built diamond stage, as the pyrotechnics soar behind them and the energy in the crowd is palpable. Opening with ‘Anthem Part Two’, the crowd’s cheers echo around the arena as everyone is transported back to their youth smirking and giggling through the lyrics of ‘Family Reunion’ still finding them funny in spite of the band members now in their late forties/early fifties along with a good of the chunk of the crowd, because let’s face it toilet humour and ‘your Mom’ jokes never seem to get old!

Drummers can often be overlooked in bands, but this is not the case for Travis whose career is currently going from strength to strength away from the band through his record label DTA Records and tonight he is given his own rising drum kit allowing him to elevate above the stage and during ‘Violence’ he even plays half of the track blindfolded as Mark puts a towel over his head!

The majority of tracks come from ‘Enema Of The State’ and ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’ but the new tracks that are given the run out are done so in front of a crowd that already know all the lyrics even though ‘DANCE WITH ME’ was released a mere ten days ago. Joking that during ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’ the crowd aren’t loud enough, the song is played again but this time harder and faster provoking the required crowd response.

It’s been 9 years since Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge have performed live together in the UK yet the camaraderie between the three of them is off the chart, showcasing any residual conflict is well and truly behind them with the band members confirming that Mark’s recent health battle provided the catalyst for how trivial those disagreements seemed when faced with their own mortality. Mark references the band, the tour and the fans, thanking them for “saving his life a second time” before playing ‘Adam’s Song’.

Sandwiched together at the end is the triple threat of ‘What’s My Age Again?’, ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘Dammit’ paying the perfect homage to Blink’s biggest hits. The set is jam packed with all of the bands best hits coupled with a full production spectacle from fire, sparklers, confetti, streamers and even a life size ambulance suspended over the stage.

It’s a night filled with nostalgia and packed with their usual witty banter and irreverent humour but also an extremely heartfelt performance no more so than with the choice of the final song, the new album title track ‘ONE MORE TIME’. There’s a finality in the lyrics of this track reflected in the emotion in the crowd that gives a sense of maybe this is the last time…. and how important it is that we savour every moment. Maybe it’s Marks health scares, maybe it’s the knowledge that the band has split before so it could happen again, but as evidenced by the time in which they sold out their tickets, this is a band with their own brand of ‘crappy punk rock’ lyricism and adolescent charm, who will always have a swarm of fans waiting to welcome them with open arms.

The new album ‘ONE MORE TIME…’ is set for release on October 20th. Preorder here.

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