Of all the things you’d expect from a typical Blink-182 gig – an overdose of pop-punk nostalgia, an outrageous drum solo or three, generous servings of teenage humour – witnessing Mark Hoppus perform the soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is surely not one of the most obvious.
But then this is Blink 2.0 – so called in this, the post Tom Delonge-era of the long-standing pop-punk trio. The guitarist’s fractured departure from the band in January 2015 had brought some uncertainty for Blink fans about the future (Delonge maintains that he could re-join Blink if they can make that “special something” happen again), but his current replacement, Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, has gone some way to proving that a non-Delonge Blink-182 can not only exist, but thrive: the comfortably-familiar ‘Bored To Death’, the first single from the band’s upcoming seventh album ‘California’, is testament to that alone.
And so, with less than a month until ‘California’ drops (July 1), we find ourselves in the intimate surroundings of the Rose Theatre in Kingston, in the depths of London, on a sticky Tuesday night in June. Last night (June 8) Blink – or rather two-thirds of Blink 2.0, with bassist Mark Hoppus and Skiba flying out to UK without drummer Travis Barker, who no longer flies regularly after he was involved in a plane crash in 2008 – arrived in town for two special shows in this dramatic performance space, armed only with acoustic versions of their regular instruments.
Tickets for the shows, put on by local record store Banquet Records, sold out rapidly, and by the time the second performance of the night rolled around at 9:30pm, both Hoppus and his new on-stage sparring partner were finely tuned and more than ready to deliver the goods. It was hot as hell in the three-tiered theatre, but it didn’t discourage the pair from dressing all in black, hailing the delighted throng, some of whom had apparently queued for up to 10 hours, with an ecstatic welcome.
come on let me hold you, touch you, feel you, always, kiss you, taste you, all night, always I just saw blink 182 play always (my favourite blink song and one of my fave songs of all time) acoustically in a tiny room and oh my god it was so perfect. so beautiful enjoy #blink182 #always #markhoppus #mattskiba
Kicking off a 13 song-strong setlist with the swear jar-filling ‘Family Reunion’, there were nostalgic cuts aplenty for the Blink devotees to melt over: the likes of ‘The Rock Show’, ‘Josie’ and ‘What’s My Age Again?’ were all unsurprisingly devoured with a nostalgic fervour, while moodier fan favourites ‘Always’, ‘Down’ and ‘I Miss You’ prompted the kind of fervent singalongs you didn’t think were possible to recreate anywhere off the Reading & Leeds Festival sites.
But how is Skiba faring so far as Delonge’s replacement on stage? It’s a little hard to gain a full picture, given that this was always going to be a curtailed, acoustic performance attended by diehard Blink fans, but, judging by the screams of adulation that accompanied his vocal rendition of ‘I Miss You’ – you’ll no doubt recall Delonge’s screechy original vocal take – he’s already been welcomed with open arms by the most passionate of the UK fanbase.
By the time ‘All The Small Things’ was struck up, punters were out of their seats, falling over the balcony and worshiping Hoppus and Skiba like the pop-punk gods you can’t deny they are. While Hamlet’s “To be or not to be?” may continue to be one of life’s enduring questions, it seems that the question of whether Blink-182 can move on following a period of turmoil is much clearer after tonight.
‘The Rock Show’
‘I Miss You’
‘What’s My Age Again?’
‘Bored To Death’
‘Built This Pool’
‘A New England’ (Billy Bragg Cover)
‘Stay Together For The Kids’
‘All The Small Things’