Blink-182 began the UK California tour in Cardiff on Monday, having released the deluxe edition of their recent album soon before. The band have brought along Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls from the UK and The Front Bottoms all the way from New Jersey for their supports.
The Front Bottoms were up first, an indie-punk band featuring a variety of instruments including an acoustic guitar, keyboard and trumpet. It’s fair to say that most of the audience were unlikely to be familiar with the band, but that didn’t stop them coming out with remarkable gusto. Having played in Cardiff in 2016 on the back of their latest album Back on Top, The Front Bottoms filled this setlist more evenly from their discography, opening with Skeleton and touching other old favourites like Maps and Au Revior. It would be easy for a band like The Front Bottoms to feel lost in an arena sized venue, but this was certainly not the case. The band played passionately throughout, finishing on a rendition of Twin Size Mattress which has never sounded better. [7/10]
Frank Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls know the UK tour circuit like few other acts can claim, and they took Cardiff firmly in their stride. They opened with Get Better from 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People, before moving into the older Try This At Home. As ever, Frank was full of charisma and demanding the crowd to get moving. Admittedly his attempt to inspire a circle pit didn’t quite lead to the room spinning, but a support act’s got to try, right?
Frank has his show well-practiced, and he’s not afraid to slow it all down to bring up an audience member, give her a brief lesson in the harmonica and have her play a solo during one of his songs. It’s this desire to bring an element of fun and accessibility to his concerts that make them so special. Further highlights of the set were Recovery and the penultimate I Still Believe. Full of energy, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls smashed it. [8/10]
Finally, Blink-182 took to the stage after the Stranger Things soundtrack introduced them along with the drop of a huge flag. The band have been opening their show with Feeling This for a long while, and for good reason. It was no surprise, but an appropriate anthem to open. Next was Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’s The Rock Show, another old time favourite. The trio played the songs well, but there was a sense of restraint in the early movements of their set. They didn’t sound bad at all, more that they were just going through the motions.
The first song from new album California was the album opener Cynical, and a bit more life is injected here. It’s perfectly understandable for bands to enjoy playing their recent material more than songs they’ve been playing for years; and it.s not just that for Blink. California-era material marks music that new member Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) helped to write, making it a passion project for the whole band.
Both Matt and Mark sounded good vocally through the gig, not straining much but hitting their notes comfortably. Travis Barker, as ever, is mesmerising to watch as he flows through his kit. Matt Skiba is relatively static on stage, with most of the movement coming from Mark’s occasional jaunts across the stage, including a mock joust at his partner. Although the band sounded good, therefore, most of the energy came from the admittedly impressive stage show. There’s no smoke without fire, and Blink had all the tricks waiting in the wings: smoke and fire, sparks, confetti and more. Huge screens behind the band raised and lowered, sometimes showing the band and the crowd, more often showing song-specific material and even music-video style content.
So, Blink are back. Did it look awesome? Of course it did. Did it sound awesome? Mostly, the band were consistent rather than show-stopping. Their set was just missing a touch of magic, and not even the inclusion of Happy Holidays, You Bastard and jokes from Mark could quite recapture the momentum of the pop-punk band that ruled the 2000’s. It’s easy to pick holes, but all round Blink still had a lot to give, and nobody needed to come away disappointed. [7/10]