What better way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Honda Civic Tour than by having the inaugural headliner return? When that band is Blink 182, there is simply no other option. While the 2001 tour took place in clubs, the band's (and the tour's) popularity has now landed them in large amphitheaters and the like. Add My Chemical Romance as director support and a good opener - Manchester Orchestra on the first leg - and you have yourself the recipe for yet another memorable year for the tour.
Manchester Orchestra may have a strong following on the site - and rightfully so - but the majority of people at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA on August 9 were unfamiliar with the Atlanta-based quintet. As they went on first, the large arena wasn't even half full when they opened with "Everything to Nothing." Fresh off of a slot at Lollaplooza (which was convenient, since I missed them at the festival), the band delivered a half hour of indie rock. I feel that their setlist could have been better, but their performance was solid. Although decidedly different from the acts that they were supporting, the band seemed to have won over some fans by the time they closed with "Pride."
Although seemingly billed as co-headliners, My Chemical Romance only played for about an hour. They still brought a lot of fans with them; it was clear that a number of people came out just for them and left after they played. Their performance wasn't quite as theatrical as when they headline, but they still brought a dark vibe, including low lighting and keyboard interludes between a few songs. Both the vocals and the guitars seemed a bit weak in the mix, but the band didn't let it slow them down.
My Chem's setlist was full of surprises. I was expecting to hear a lot of cuts off their latest effort, Danger Days, but was happy to hear a healthy mix of material. Only three tracks - "Planetary (GO!)" (during which giant balloons filled with confetti were batted around the arena), "The Kids from Yesterday," and "DESTROYA" - came from the new album. Surprisingly, they left out its two biggest singles, "Sing" and "Na Na Na." Even the opener and closer - "House of Wolves" and "Famous Last Words," respectively - were unconventional choices. The crowd went wild for the hits but seemed indifferent otherwise.
From the opening flanging drums of "Feeling This," Blink 182 had the thousands of people in attendance wrapped around their fingers. It seemed that the band was just as eager to showcase their new material as fans were to hear it, playing their new single, "Up All Night," second. They debuted three other new songs throughout the night. "Heart's All Gone" is a fast-paced number with a punk beat reminiscent of old school Blink but with Mark Hoppus experimenting with a different vocal key. Travis Barker is straight-up beastly on the drums in "Ghost on the Dancefloor," which has verses similar to Boxcar Racer's "There Is." "After Midnight" is more along the lines of what the band did on their self-titled album.
With the exception of a couple of curveballs (most notably "Violence" and "Man Overboard"), the remainder of the band's hour and a half set was filled with all of the hits you've come to know and love from the band (although "Adam's Song" was missed). Successful singles like "All The Small Things," "What's My Age Again?" and "I Miss You" received the loudest reactions, but the set concluded with some deep cuts that got older fans excited. They ended with a trio of old favorites - "Josie," "Carousel," and, as always, "Dammit" before playing the curse-riddled "Family Reunion."
Of course, half of the appeal of any Blink show is the stage banter. The band brought their A game for the tour, with plenty of crowd interaction and humorous jokes abound. Hoppus remarked, "I'm almost 40, and I'm still up here acting like a jackass." Tom DeLonge later said that there is "no one I would rather talk about buttholes and penises with than these guys." Barker also played his renowned drum solo. Unfortunately, he could not use the typical hydraulics due to the rain, but his performance was impressive even without the spectacle. The set even featured a laser light show.
I've seen Blink perform twice before this - once prior to their hiatus and again at their reunion tour in 2009 - and this was their best effort yet. Not only does the trio seem to be having as much fun as ever, but they also sound great. The band has never been known for their stellar live sound, but DeLonge in particular has stepped up his game. His guitar playing and vocals - both points of contention in the past - were tight and clean, and he still found time to make goofy faces and inappropriate gestures in between.
Chalk this one up to another victory for the Honda Civic Tour and all of the bands involved. If their live performance is any indication, Blink 182's highly anticipated album, Neighborhoods, will mark yet another improvement in the band's career. And with a decade of success behind them, the Honda Civic Tour is cementing itself as a traditional event with a reliably strong line-up that fans will look forward to every year.
Check out all of my photos from the show here. Watch some videos here.