Fell in Love Again at the Blink Show

Blink-182 Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Did you fall in love again at last night's Blink-182 show? If not, maybe you're not the romantic sort because there was plenty to stoke the fires of passion in a heart open to love of all kinds. Maybe you don’t associate the notion of romantic love with Blink, one of the Jackass generation’s all-time pop punk acts, but like a teen with a crush it’s there, buried beneath the swear words and locker room talk.

If you were at the Toyota Center concert you probably at least fell in love again with the reunited band. After nearly a decade away, guitarist Tom DeLonge was back, front and center alongside bassist and fellow vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker. Their 26-song set stretched nearly two hours and three decades, back to a time when audiences were cool with watching movies like American Pie. Blink’s 2023 stage patter sounds like that pre-cancellation time, fueled by talk about glory holes and sex dungeons and lots of mom jokes.

The band wasted no time setting that tone, either. The third song in the set was “Family Reunion,” the one-minute ditty that’s just a string of words that once made our adolescent pals snicker. “Shit, piss, fuck,” and more. (You know how it goes). At some point, DeLonge introduced a song by announcing, “This song is about the female orgasm – it does not exist.” That proclamation came about 20 seconds after DeLonge asked the crowd to act “mature.”

And still, watching the band live, it was evident that just like an Adam & Eve gift card or Virginia, (the state, not the girl), Blink-182 is for lovers. The second song in the set was “The Rock Show,” which isn’t about what happens on stage at the rock show — which last night included pyrotechnics, animated visuals, a 20-foot long inflatable of an ambulance and an even larger one of the Blink bunny. The song is about who’s in the audience and Toyota Center’s 18,000-plus was filled with plenty of couples, partners who maybe once fell in love at the rock show. “First Date” bookended the set (featuring a nice Ramones homage) and the capacity crowd sang “Let’s make this last forever and ever,” like they were exchanging wedding vows. Blink’s odes might not be Keatsian, but they’re filled with as much doubt, hope, lust and romance as Romeo & Juliet.

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DeLonge is back after nearly a decade away from Blink
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Audience members enjoyed DeLonge's return. He's back to whisper sweet nothings like "you're already the voice inside my head" in his own unmistakable voice. As raunchy as he acts (and yes, we do submit it’s an act, DeLonge doing his best Stifler), songs featuring him as lead were always some of Blink’s most romantic. We got to swoon to “I Miss You” and were feeling “Feeling This” last night. And his guitar playing was truly a sight to behold, real virtuoso stuff.

Somewhere along the way, a 13 year-old asked for and was given one of DeLonge’s guitars. He was brought onstage to meet his guitar hero and was even wearing his ballcap backwards like DeLonge, who told him, “I want you to play that shit but don’t you fucking get better than me because it makes me look super bad.”

“It’ll take two days for that to happen,” Hoppus quipped.

DeLonge’s playing shone through in spite of the jokes (the intro to "Aliens Exist" was just Hoppus saying, "Tom was right") and despite the spotlight on Barker, one of rock’s best and busiest drummers. About halfway through the set, the platform on which Barker sat was lifted above the band and the audience, a symbol of sorts for the heights he’s reached.

Brotherly love is another type of love and it was on full display last night with the Blink fraternity intact again. It also allowed for the one moment during the show where the band could speak honestly, no gimmicks, no naughty words. Ahead of “Adam’s Song,” Hoppus told the crowd he’d originally written it as a lifeline. It’s about suicide. When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma in April 2021, the song took on new meaning, he said. Hoppus is now cancer-free.

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Feeling the love
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
“Two years later, here I am with all of you,” he announced and the crowd roared, spurred by DeLonge waving his arms. “I think it says a lot about the power of music that this song saved my life once and being here with all of you and with Tom and with Travis saved my life a second time, so thank you all very much for spending a Saturday night with us.

“Because I didn’t know if I’d ever be here again,” Hoppus continued, “and it makes it all that much more special to me. This song is about finding light in the darkness and it goes out to every single person here tonight. I love you all.”

We love Blink, too, and they know it because we sang every word of every song with them – even the one that ends with the line, “I fucked your mom.” Hearing the greatest hits package last night was a reminder of another type of love, love of what one does. Blink-182 was always a well-balanced attack. Yeah, there are songs about getting dumped and being dumbasses, but also about surviving divorce and self-harm. They were created by skilled musicians and songsmiths. You can try to fool people into believing you can goof your way to the top of the music world, but it’s a façade. Blink is Blink because they love what they do. And now, they’re doing it all together again. It's a love fest. You can keep Celine, we’ll take the Mark, Tom and Travis show.

The Openers: KennyHoopla is a young, fresh face for pop punk and represented love of something new last night. He opened the show with a brief set that highlighted songs you should go listen to now. We recommend “silence is also an answer//,” which opened his energetic set, as well as crowd pleasers “hollywood sucks//,” “how will i rest in peace if I’m buried by a highway?//” and set-closer “estella//.”

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Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Turnstile, the Baltimore hardcore punk act that’s rightfully commanding music headlines and Grammy nods, was incredible live. Their 2021 album GLOW ON is a masterful work so it was nice to see how true those songs are presented for an audience. Singer Brendan Yates spent most of the set obscured in shadows and graciously directed the spotlight to bandmate Daniel Fang for a mind-blowing, four-minute drum solo. They and the band powered through the darkness on songs like “BLACKOUT” and soared on tunes like “FLY AGAIN.”

Turnstile’s built a following by blending new tones into the hardcore genre. Specifically, the music is funky. There’s even a Sly nod to the Family Stone on “T.L.C.,” that “Thank you for letting me be myself,” lyric that's become a bit of a band mantra and fan favorite. Onstage, Yates grooved to the music at times and banged his head at others, just as we’ve done since Turnstile truly emerged. They’re like Laura Esquivel’s classic romance novel Like Water for Chocolate. Their unique, sexy approach to the hardcore genre is magical realism, something so provocative and alluring it turns a staple item into something decadent and delicious.

Turnstile Set List

Big Smile

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Blink's was a greatest hits set with more than two dozen crowd pleasers
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Blink-182 Set List

Anthem Part Two
The Rock Show
Family Reunion
Man Overboard
Feeling This
Reckless Abandon
Up All Night
Dysentery Gary
Aliens Exist
Happy Holidays, You Bastard
Stay Together for the Kids
Bored to Death
I Miss You
Adam’s Song
Ghost on the Dance Floor
What’s My Age Again?
First Date
All the Small Things
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.