“We love Jedward,” Blink 182 announce to a chorus of boos, “you would too if you’d ever had them sit on your face and slowly spread their ass cheeks…” Clearly, after all these years, if there’s one thing you can still expect from Blink 182, it’s downright immaturity. They might have taken a slight right turn in the direction of heartfelt emo-rock with their sel- titled pre-split album, but tonight’s set – their first in Dublin since right before the break up, which they sarcastically blame on the crowd – is still as much about having a good laugh as the band’s infamous three-chord brand of pop-punk.
Musical purists might laugh heartily at Blink 182 in a slightly less kind way. There’s no doubting that an inherent simplicity plays a big role in what they produce, but it’s also a large part of the appeal. The older – and still simpler – tracks are all on display tonight, with the likes of ‘What’s My Age Again’, ‘Reckless Abandon’, ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘Stay Together For The Kids’ more notable for their energy and amusing lyric changes than any great musical quality. It’s an energy, though, which carries this band. In fairness, having not released an album since 2003 (they recently promised a new one is on the way), most of their music is a bit dated these days, yet while it might be simple, it sticks in the mind in a way many more sophisticated melodies can’t quite pull off. The poorer very early material from the likes of ‘Buddha’, fortunately, seems to be a thing of the past.
The 21st century is an age in which rock music has pushed forward onto a more complex level. Loops, keyboards, and complex electronic backing mixes are practically a trademark of the genre these days, and Blink’s appeal lies largely in their ability to take the style back to its fun-loving, slightly silly roots. The showmanship here is bizarre at times, but also occasionally reminiscent of the ludicrous rock and roll extravagances of old. As an encore, for example, Travis Barker drums along to a hip-hop track whilst being slowly rotated through a fully upside down position. Three chords are just perfect for moshing along to, and in the slightly newer material, such as the likes of ‘I Miss You’, Blink have discovered a second, slower gear, one that – while it still hardly breaks any songwriting barriers – adds a layer of meaning that they previously lacked.
What’s clear from tonight is that Blink still have a mammoth fan base. Fresh from headlining the Leeds and Reading festivals over in the UK, they’ve sold the night out comfortably, and take the easy cheers along with the harder-earnt ones (“you’re so much better than the British, just don’t tell them we said that”). Almost every song brings with it incessant, shirtless leaping not just down the front, but down the back and amongst the seating, too.
Aside from exposure, there’s little to divide lesser-known tracks like ‘Always’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me’ from the smash singles: Blink 182 are regularly able to stop their vocal performance altogether and let the audience loudly fill in the various vocals. The stage presence is something they have developed substantially over time: today, they’ve given up the huge flaming ‘fuck’ sign that used to grace their backdrop, replacing it with porthole screens, a dramatic entre involving a dropping curtain and a huge confetti shower accompanying the closing song. For a three-piece, they fill the stage remarkably well.
Sure, being a Blink 182 fan might still be a domain largely populated by sweaty, bouncing teenagers and post-teenage fans highly amused by the spontaneous insertion of swear words into sentences, but this was never about sophistication. What it is about is energy, infectiousness and an ability to perform in a way that ceaselessly entertains, if in an invariably child-like way. In other words, it’s entirely unpretentious, laugh-a-minute fun, and who doesn’t enjoy that?
Photos by Kieran Frost