In the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack in May, many fans wondered whether US rockers Blink 182 would have to cancel their planned show in the city – their first for five years. Fortunately, for them – and to the delight of the thousands in attendance – they instead managed to find a new venue to play on the same night they were due on stage at the Arena. But before they played a single note, it was left to support acts The Front Bottoms and Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls to get the crowd warmed up…
New Jersey band The Front Bottoms, with their songs including “Twin Size Mattress” and “The Beers” were entertaining enough, largely because of the energetic melodies, but they are certainly some way off being ready for headline slots, particularly at a venue the size of the Bowl – not at all helped by having one of their members do nothing more than sit on a couch in the middle of the stage.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls fared much, much better, and the expletive-filled set of cracking tune after tune, beginning with “Get Better”, was just what the crowd needed to truly hype themselves up for the main event.
Taking a moment to address the fact that everyone was gathered at a new venue due to the horror and tragedy that unfolded back in May, before performing “The Next Storm” Turner said, to a deafening roar of support from the crowd:
“My heart fucking bled for Manchester on that day, but here’s the thing that we need to do. When someone tries to terrorise us out of what we do, we tell them to get fucked and we tell them we’re not going to stop…”
Calling a fan named Becky up on stage to play – or in her case, attempt to play – the harmonica during “Dan’s Song” provided a few minutes of light hearted humour, Frank’s diving into the crowd had fans in raptures and “Photosynthesis” had everyone – from those at the barrier, to the hundreds sat at the back, dancing with semi-reckless abandon. By the time he left the stage, there was no doubt Turner had delivered a set which was, in this reviewers’ mind at least, going to be hard to top.
Just as Blink 182 took the stage, in typical British summertime style, the heavens began to open but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. It’s been two years since Matt Skiba, perhaps best known for being the front-man of Alkaline Trio, stepped into Tom DeLonge’s shoes, but in reality, you certainly couldn’t tell. Instead Skiba played and sang with as much passion as his predecessor had and, although it was left mostly to Mark Hoppus – bounding around with the energy of a man half his age – to engage with the crowd, he certainly fulfilled his share of the role when it came to entertaining the thousands who had come to see him, and them, play.
“Feeling This” and “The Rock Show” got things off to a strong start, while Barker, regarded as one of the greatest drummers of this era, proved his own worth as he powered his way through several numbers from the new album California including “Built This Pool” and “She’s Out Of Her Mind.”
As expected, “All The Small Things” went down a storm and a proposal being made in the first few rows of the crowd saw Hoppus call the couple up on stage, where he invited the guy to play bass. However for many, a real highlight of the bands’ set came right at the end when, as the trio began to make their off stage, Barker’s son Landon delivered a drum solo which would make the likes of Tre Cool and the late, great John Bonham proud.
With a hit-filled set that relied heavily on pyro which included fire and a ticket cannon, although Blink 182 were, and are, most certainly entertaining, the minimal amount of chat and real interaction with their audience – especially compared to Frank Turner – left some, this reviewer included, feeling like there was a palpable divide between band and the fans, and given the fact they’ve been going for 25 years – that alone made their performance tonight considerably disappointing.