I was disappointed when Blink 182 were forced to cancel their handful of U.S. tour dates last summer, as I had planned on attending the Connecticut stop, but, as the band once sang, "Good things come to those who wait." Amidst their Riot Fest appearances, Blink rescheduled their stop at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT for September 8th of this year. To make the wait even more worthwhile, they brought Taking Back Sunday, Four Year Strong and New Beat Fund with them.
Blink 182 has now been a band for 21 years - longer than a good portion of their fanbase has been alive - but their live show has not missed a beat over the years. Their setlist hasn't changed much from that of their stint on 2011's Honda Civic Tour, but the song selection delivers the hits for which they're known and showcases new material (two tracks from Dogs Eating Dogs and five from Neighborhoods) while incorporating a few fan favorites ("Dumpweed," "Carousel").
Vocalists Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus didn't indulge in as much stage banter as their typically known for, but they were entertaining nonetheless. At the request of an audience member, Hoppus even gave drummer Travis Barker the microphone to say a rare "What's up?" to the crowd. The trio dropped Barkers' drum solo for this tour, previously a set staple, but he showed off his impressive skills during some intros, interludes and fills. The lack of a solo also meant no acoustic song from the band, which they had been doing on their most recent European tour. The set ended 10 minutes short of the 90-minute mark, so I'd love to see them work in a deep cut or two next time around.
It has been an exciting few years for Taking Back Sunday. The original line-up reunited in 2010, put out a new album in 2011, celebrated the 10th anniversary of Tell All Your Friends 10th last year and recorded their new album this year. They seem reinvigorated, while maintaining the aspects their fans love about them.
The way vocalist Adam Lazzara commands the audience's attention reminds me more and more of an archetypal frontman each time I see the band. With his hair growing longer, his locks now flow as freely as his microphone as he dances around the stage. The band didn't preview any new material, but the one-two-three punch of "You're So Last Summer," "Cute Without the 'E'" and "MakeDamnSure" was a perfect ending.
Things in the Four Year Strong camp have been dormant for quite a while, so it was a pleasure to see them again. Unfortunately, the venue's sound system wasn't equipped for heavier music. The drums, in particular, suffered; the snare was significantly louder than everything else, while the double bass was muddled. The band persevered, delivering a solid 25-minute set. Only about half of the crowd knew who they were, but they made themselves known.
Although their live show hasn't been quite the same since keyboardist Josh Lyford left the band, there isn't much to complain about Four Year Strong's performance. The setlist was composed almost entirely of favorites from Rise or Die Trying and Enemy of the World, with the exception of "Stuck in the Middle." The sing along of "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)" was a great conclusion to their set.
Fresh off a stint on this summer's Warped Tour, New Beat Fund opened the show. It's apparent that the quartet's groove-heavy rock was greatly influenced by fellow Californian band Sublime. In fact, they covered "Caress Me Down," which the segued into a rendition of the Misfits' "Last Caress" and then back to Sublime; likely the only time those two bands have been mentioned in the same breath.
Frontman Jeff Laliberte confessed to the audience that it was probably the biggest arena in which the group has ever performed. When he asked crowd, "Who here has heard us?" the question was met with little response. But when he followed it up with, "Who here likes to smoke weed?" there was a much more vivacious reaction. They were outliers on this pop punk bill, but the band will be hitting the road with 3OH!3 next month, where they ought to receive a warmer reception.
It's a shame, for fans' sake, that this isn't a longer tour, as the strong line-up fits well together, but I'm happy to have been able to see it. Here's to hoping we don't have to wait another two years before Blink 182 tours the country again, because they remain one of the most fun live shows.
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.