blink-182 – O2 Arena, 20/07/2017

blink-182

New Jersey natives The Front Bottoms have perfected their blend of emo and indie. If you’re a fan of Mumford and Sons and Modern Baseball and haven’t heard of The Front Bottoms yet, what are you waiting for? Go and listen to them, because they’ll quickly become your new favourite band.

Opening an arena of this size must have been intimidating, but they didn’t let it phase them. Frontman Brian Sella’s vocal licks verged on the unhinged at points, particularly during ‘The Beers’, when his voice broke spectacularly as he encouraged the audience to sing their lyrics back to them. It was proof that they were far more focused on enjoying themselves than being note perfect, which was endearing. No one likes a band who take themselves too seriously: especially not a band who’re opening for perennial jokers blink-182. That’s probably why they had a sofa stuffed with people in the middle of the stage: I’m not sure who they were, but they had the best seat in the house.

With humour laced through their lyrics (‘Skeleton’ with its “I never sleep in the front seat, I’m too tall!” exclamation, and ‘Maps’ stating, “One day, you’ll be washing yourself with hand soap in a public bathroom, and you’ll be thinking, “How did I get here? And where the fuck am I?”), The Front Bottoms are the definition of self-deprecating. All of their songs have dark undertones, but they aren’t afraid to explore the lighter side of serious topics. It’s refreshing, particularly in comparison to their peers, and it explains how they managed to get the attention of Fueled By Ramen, who signed them back in 2015.

I hadn’t seen The Front Bottoms before, but one thing’s for certain: I’m going to be listening to these guys a lot from now on.

Setlist:

Skeleton
West Virginia
The Plan (Fuck Jobs)
Maps
Cough It Out
Au Revoir
The Beers
Twin-Sized Mattress

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls never disappoint. Based off of the reaction to his set, it was obvious that a lot of people were in attendance to see the acoustic troubadour, but when asking who had never heard of him before a surprising amount of people raised their hands. Who knew the Great British public were so musically uneducated?!

People might have arrived not knowing who Frank Turner was, but he put on an unforgettable performance. Playing a comprehensive set featuring songs from five of his full-length releases, Frank definitely knows how to craft the perfect setlist. ‘Get Better’, ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘I Still Believe’ were particularly well-received, getting the majority of the audience members singing along.

Mark Hoppus’ appearing to perform harmonica on ‘Dan’s Song’ was a standout moment. Sharing that he’d had a guest on stage the previous night who he’d called Larry “but his name was actually Harry, and I’m an asshole!”, Frank was delighted to introduce his friend Mark to the crowd. Mark was like a deer in headlights, holding the harmonica as he leaned forward and joked, “I’m holding a harmonica in my hand. I have no idea how to play it.” With Frank teaching him how to play and the “secret code words” musicians use (namely “stop!” and “go!”), it was a light-hearted moment breaking up an otherwise emotional set. “If he does a good enough job we might even let him play some of his own songs later,” Frank quipped, and it’s testament to how charming he is that the crowd laughed uproariously.

Frank has been working hard for the past sixteen years in multiple projects, and he should be playing stages of this size as a headliner, not just as a main support. Finishing their set in the middle of the crowd, he owned every second of their stage time. I can’t wait to attend Frank’s own show at the O2 Arena, because he deserves this more than anyone.

Setlist:

Get Better
Long Live the Queen
The Next Storm
Out of Breath
Recovery
Dan’s Song (ft. Mark Hoppus)
If Ever I Stray
Photosynthesis
I Still Believe
Four Simple Words

I was apprehensive about blink-182‘s set. Since the departure of Tom DeLonge, the band seem to be in a happier place. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba fits in remarkably well, but his vocal tone isn’t as distinctive as Tom’s nasal whine. Could blink-182 really work without Tom?

The answer was a tentative yes. Bursting onto the stage with ‘Feeling This’, Matt sang Tom’s parts with such ease it felt as though he’d been with blink-182 for twenty years rather than two. There were dull points during the evening, specifically ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘Violence’, which felt flat and uncomfortable. But for the most part Matt owned the stage, even singing the “voice inside my ‘ead” line from ‘I Miss You’ in the same style as the man he replaced.

Surprisingly enough, their other vocalist was the problem. The trio were forced to cancel their show in Bournemouth due to Mark Hoppus being ill, and he hadn’t completely recovered. His voice was struggling throughout the night. blink-182 shows are normally filled with banter, but interactions between Mark and Matt were few and far between. It was hardly shocking when the band finished less than 90 minutes after going on stage.

Travis Barker’s the shining gem holding the band together. With an extended solo after ‘Kings of the Weekend’, Travis proved he’s capable of far more than blink-182 offer. Passing his sticks to his son, Landon, at the end of the encore, it proved that musical skill runs in the Barker family. I’m interested in where Landon will be in five years time.

All in all, it was a fun night, even though it did finish far too quickly. With songs like ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’, ‘Built This Pool’ and ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself at a blink-182 show. I just wish Mark had been feeling 100%, because that would have made this set so much better.

Setlist:

Feeling This
The Rock Show
Cynical
Anthem Part Two
What’s My Age Again?
First Date
Bored to Death
Built This Pool
Down
I Miss You
Dumpweed
Reckless Abandon
She’s Out of Her Mind
Kings of the Weekend
Violence
Sober
Happy Holidays, You Bastard
Dysentery Gary
Los Angeles

All the Small Things
Brohemian Rhapsody
Dammit (ft. Landon Barker)