Blink-182 offer up a giddy, joyous evening at London’s O2 Arena

Tonight, Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge take to the stage for the second of two very sold-out shows at London O2’s Arena as part of a very sold-out world tour.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Frances Beach.

“No one can do what we do,” declares Tom DeLonge, as Blink-182 playfully take aim at both The Beatles and Dolly Parton onstage at London’s O2 Arena. It might be said with a smirk, but there’s a whole lot of truth behind that bold statement.

There were pop-punk bands before Blink-182, but the trio really nailed the formula of angsty teenage rebellion and huge, radio-friendly hooks with 1999’s ‘Enema Of The State’ and 2001’s ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’. Despite the global success that followed, the band never took themselves too seriously, constantly choosing tomfoolery over sincerity.

But Blink-182 were always so much more than dick jokes, which is why their music still connects beyond wide-eyed nostalgia and why there’s so much excitement around the reunion of the classic line-up. Tonight, Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom take to the stage for the second of two very sold-out shows at London O2’s Arena as part of a very sold-out world tour. They open with ‘Anthem Part Two’, a frustrated anthem about being let down by those in charge and feeling helpless to impact meaningful change. Over twenty years later, it’s as relevant as ever. The answer? Snotty, guitar-driven catharsis.

That energy becomes joyful via urgent, escapist breakout hits ‘The Rock Show’, ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘What’s My Age Again?’ that unite the packed arena, while a thundering ‘Bored To Death’, the goth romance of ‘I Miss You’ and the emo ‘Stay Together For The Kids’ dig a little deeper. “Blink-182, celebrating the breakdown of loving families,” grins Hoppus afterwards.

As you’d expect from a Blink-182 gig, there’s plenty of onstage banter between Mark and Tom while Travis holds it down at the back with a grinning flamboyance. Rather than trying to prove they’re the same goofy kids they’ve always been, though, the pair seem more interested in trying to put one another off.

Things shift ahead of ‘Adam’s Song’ though. “I wrote this song a long time ago when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep on living,” says Mark with surprising directness. He goes on to explain that singing about those feelings saved his life. “A few years ago, I was in chemotherapy for stage 4 cancer. There were days where I felt like I was dying. There were days I wanted to die,” he continues. The treatment was a success, but Mark still felt “empty and shitty” until Blink-182 started writing new music and touring again. “This band and all of you are saving my life a second time,” he admits.

It’s perhaps the first time in Blink’s career that they’ve really broken through their goofy exterior and highlighted the emotional weight that underpins a lot of their music. It continues on new song ‘One More Time’, the title-track to their upcoming album, which closes out the night. The brooding song sees the band reflect on their turbulent history but focuses on celebrating the now, while fellow newies ‘Edging’, ‘Dance With Me’ and ‘More Than You’ take the familiar into vibrant new directions.

There’s a powerful sense of comfort throughout the night. Mark blindfolds Travis while he’s halfway through the rumbling ‘Violence’, Tom is teased for quitting the band but is also celebrated for his work investigating UFOs (“he was right”) while the setlist confidently rattles between the tightly wound punk numbers that started their careers and the sprawling arena anthems that followed, with covers of The Ramones and Taylor Swift thrown in for good measure. It’s a giddy, joyous evening that feels optimistic and communal.