Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
March 23, 2017
When Blink-182 replaced its lead guitarist, co-vocalist and founding member Tom Delonge with Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba, the band fractured its fan base.
Fans were torn between their loyalty to the original trio of misfits and their desire for new music, even if California, the band’s seventh studio album and first without Delonge, felt like more of a side project than a legitimate Blink-182 album.
But California turned out to be the group’s best-received record – both commercially and critically – since 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and they have been touring in support of it on and off for nearly a year now.
On Thursday night, Blink-182 made its RodeoHouston debut in front of a crowd of 65,011 screaming fans spanning multiple generations of fandom. From California all the way back to 1995’s Cheshire Cat, the band that was instrumental in the rise of pop-punk performed a little something for everyone in attendance.
Instead of shying away from the songs that heavily relied on Delonge’s vocals, the new lineup seemed more than happy to include them, perhaps as a way to appease longtime fans with a robust set list while letting everyone know that Skiba is here to stay.
Originally released in 2001, “Anthem Part Two” felt like a fitting post-election jam as Skiba sang, “Everything has fallen to pieces/ Earth is dying/ Help me Jesus/ We need guidance/We’ve been misled/ If we’re fucked up, you’re to blame.”
Skiba is arguably a better guitarist and singer than Delonge, albeit a less interesting one. He doesn’t have a penchant for UFOs, and his voice isn’t as unique or recognizable. Still, he faithfully sang Delonge’s verses Thursday night, only reworking the former member’s guitar at times by adding his own flair.
When fans were singing along in unison to “First Date,” “I Miss You” and “All The Small Things,” you would have been hard-pressed to notice much difference vocally, especially since the group’s strong suit has never been singing.
Blink’s appeal is its eccentricity. Despite its members' ages, the band sounded ageless Thursday night as everyone – adult men and teenage girls alike – sang along to the hits, the classics and even a few newer cuts such as last year’s “Bored to Death.”
Delonge's departure may have breathed new life into a band that, by all measures, should have faded from the limelight by now. After all, it should feel odd listening to fortysomethings bemoan the futility of youth and their incompetence when talking to girls.
But Skiba's inclusion – or perhaps Delonge's removal – has paved the way for the band to write some of its most fun music in years. Even if California wasn’t an immediate classic, its music felt like the band recaptured something that had been lost.
Thursday night’s performance served as further proof that Blink-182’s success never relied on any one member. Bassist Mark Hoppus, drummer Travis Barker and Delonge all brought something to the table. And Skiba offered something new on Thursday night: a future for an otherwise inactive band.
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As is the case with any kind of art, of course, not everyone has to like it.
Anthem Part Two
What's My Age Again?
Bored To Death
I Miss You
She's Out Of Her Mind
All the Small Things