Xcel Energy Center vibrated with turn-of-the-millennium nostalgia Thursday night as the most popular lineup of the pop-punk trio Blink-182 launched their first tour together in nine years.
A crowd heavy on grinning Gen Xers and millennials filled the St. Paul hockey arena to the rafters, ready to bask in their teenage memories of the band and ask themselves the question of the evening, “What’s my age again?” Anticipation for this tour, which was announced back in October, was so high that the dynamically priced tickets shot up to Springsteenian heights. Fans paid hundreds, if not thousands, for this night and they were ready for it.
Bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus, guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker knew what the people wanted and, for the most part, delivered with a high-energy, enthusiastic show brimming with the group’s trademark juvenile humor. And when I say juvenile, I mean it. One of their many audience favorites Thursday was “Family Reunion,” the lyrics of which are little more than George Carlin’s infamous Seven Dirty Words with three of their own expletives thrown in for good measure.
This was actually the band’s second reunion. They split up the first time in 2005 after touring their self-titled fifth album led to tensions in the group and DeLonge’s desire to spend more time with his family. The sudden death of their producer Jerry Finn followed by Barker surviving an airplane crash brought the trio back together in 2008.
But when DeLonge left a second time in 2015 while they were writing their seventh album, Hoppus and Barker went ahead and asked Alkaline Trio vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba to take his place. The first album with Skiba and its lead single “Bored to Death” were both big hits. Skiba also proved to be a better vocalist and guitarist than DeLonge.
But their second Skiba record didn’t live up to its predecessor and their joint tour with (of all people) Lil Wayne saw them playing to half-empty arenas, including the X in September 2019.
Another tragedy — Hoppus’ successful battle with cancer in 2021 — led to reunion No. 2.
Hoppus and DeLonge didn’t show any obvious signs of tension during the show, but they also mostly kept their distance at either side of the stage that extended out into a general admission pit. The pair had plenty of dumb banter between songs just like the old days. For his part, Barker kept to himself and turned in a muscular, at times almost violent, performance on the drums.
The set list leaned heavily on the trio’s two biggest records, 1999’s “Enema of the State” and 2001’s “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket,” but also included some surprises, like “Adam’s Song,” which this lineup hadn’t played live since 2009. Even more of a shock was hearing DeLonge singing two Skiba-era tracks, “Cynical” and “Bored to Death.”
After Blink-182’s Coachella performance last month, some fans took to social media to suggest DeLonge was using autotune. There were certainly times it sounded like it Thursday, but his voice sometimes got overwhelmed in the noisy mix.
Really, though, Blink-182 is not a band about musical virtuosity. Blink-182 is band about big, buzzy songs and plenty of jokes about male genitalia. That’s what they proved Thursday and the crowd loved every minute of it.