Review: Blink-182 regroup, reinvigorate old pop-punk hits at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
When Blink-182 brought their reunion tour to what is now Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre back in 2009, they sold the place out. Same thing happened when the pop-punk heroes returned there on Saturday: Sold-out show, 19,500 strong, fans in the cheap seats screaming every word.
Pretty much the same experience, then, right?
No, not exactly. This is the new Blink-182 we’re talking about, with singer-bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker replacing singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. And the new Blink feels like a whole new band altogether – not definitively better, not definitively worse, but definitively not the same.
It’s been written a million times since Blink’s 2016 makeover, but … I guess this is growing up?
Blink-182 started out trying to keep things stable, ripping through three huge hits – Feeling This, What’s My Age Again? and The Rock Show – within the first four songs, a setlist standard for many years. Coincidentally or not, these were largely Hoppus-led songs to in the first place, making this a particularly good way to ease Tampa fans into Blink 2.0 on Saturday.
But the obvious X factor distinguishing New Blink from Old Blink is Skiba, and it wasn’t long before he got to make some DeLonge songs his own, including 2001’s First Date and 2003’s Down. Compared to DeLonge’s sneering yowl, Skiba’s razor-wire roar is all business, and it gave serious and powerful edge to DeLonge songs like Dumpweed, Reckless Abandon and even the 22-year-old Carousel. It felt especially appropriate on songs from Blink’s new album California, such as the gritty Los Angeles. And it was a worthy match for Barker’s runaway-locomotive drumming on songs like Not Now and Violence.
But do Skiba’s superior voice and delivery actually make Blink-182 a better band? Ay, there’s the rub. DeLonge’s snotty whine was a perfect fit for Blink’s class-clown lyrics and antics, particularly live. Gone from the stage were the inflatable props, alien imagery and the band’s longtime bunny mascot, replaced with an enormous, eye-searing LED screen and spurts of flame and sparks. Gone, and much missed, was the playful interplay between Hoppus and DeLonge – only rarely did Hoppus and Skiba interact, and even then, Hoppus did most of the talking.
Oh, sure, there were drips of classic Blink potty humor here and there, like the sub-minute joke-offs Family Reunion, Built This Pool, Brohemian Rhapsody and Happy Holidays, You Bastard. But like California as a whole, a lot of Saturday’s set was serious, serious, serious – the screaming Cynical, the head-banging Kings of the Weekend, even the fierce San Diego, making what Hoppus said was its live debut.
By giving Skiba so much to do, Hoppus and Barker were reasserting that Blink are still very much a band, and not some sort of Mark Hoppus solo project. (For whatever reason, plenty of Hoppus-led favorites, including Josie, Every Time I Look For You and Going Away to College, didn’t make the setlist on Saturday).
Saturday’s opening acts balanced the bill with a even more rock and rage. Playing their first hometown show since 2013, Ocala-born melodic metalcore outfit A Day to Remember were aggressive but exacting, amping the crowd's adrenaline with Florida-referencing favorites like All Signs Point to Lauderdale and The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle -- songs the ADTR lifers in the audience have been screaming for years. They also stirred up a massive circle pit with their only new song, the power-metal thrasher Paranoia, from their upcoming album Bad Vibrations.
As they unloaded diesel-charged monsters like The Downfall of Us All, Right Back At It Again and All I Want, ADTR flooded the Amp with beach balls, toilet paper, T-shirts and streamers. It was a display that felt better suited to Kiss or Coldplay than a metalcore act, but it's that sense of showmanship that's made them one of Florida's most successful musical exports this century.
And in a quick but ingratiating opening set, the All-American Rejects came out swinging with two of their biggest hits, Dirty Little Secret and Swing Swing, and later sent loquacious frontman Tyson Ritter -- a part-time actor who spent the set drifting into an inexplicable but pretty decent British accent -- out to roam the crowd during their new song DGAF.
"Are you ready to go back to two thousand and f---ing two with us?" Ritter howled.
He's right – there was a ton of nostalgia baked into Saturday’s concert. Hoppus joked about it while introducing 2001’s Stay Together for the Kids (irony alert!).
“If you got those emo bangs from 2003, 2004, flip that s--- down,” he said.
Because at a certain point, it didn’t matter who was singing lead for Blink-182. When Hoppus got to All the Small Things and Dammit in the encore, the whole house drowned him out anyway. Then and only then, for maybe the first time all night, the new Blink sounded just like the Blink of the past.
-- Jay Cridlin