Blink-182 at the London O2: silly, puerile, epic, cathartic and, on more than one occasion, surprisingly emotional

Blink-182 rolled back the years with a crowd-pleasing set, an impressive stage show and some typically wince-inducing stage banter

Tom Delonge on stage with Travis Barker
(Image: © Manny Carabel/Getty Images)

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"Oh my fucking shit, Blink-182!" Mark Hoppus, ever the wordsmith, has delicately and succinctly expressed what 20,000 fans are likely trying to put into words upon witnessing a moment of true, millennial rock history take place. Pop punk's most outrageous trio are reunited on a stage once more, and are embracing their moment with all the grace and subtlety of a nude jog through the streets of Los Angeles. 

Truthfully, as credible and, at points, impressively successful as Blink's stint with Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba proved to be, Tom DeLonge's much anticipated return to the band, coupled with Hoppus' recent cancer battle, has sparked a fresh wave of warmth and fondness for the Cali threesome, and tonight they delight a packed-out O2 with a career-spanning set stacked with generational hits, lesser celebrated left-turns and a quartet of new cuts whose reactions bode well for the band's immediate future.

Following a solid and well-received showing by Bay Area pop punk crew The Story So Far, who look a little bowled over as frontman Parker Cannon remarks that this is the "biggest fucking stage we've ever played on", Blink bounce out to the dramatic backdrop of 2001: A Space Odyssey's Also sprach Zarathustra, dropping an outrageous one-two in the form of Take Off Your Pants And Jacket favourites, Anthem Part Two and The Rock Show. Next up is the potty-mouthed, George Carlin-referencing fan fave Family Reunion, its ever-wholesome 'Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker/Tits, fart, turd and twat' sung gleefully by a band proudly content to age disgracefully.

It all sets the tone for a show that is equal parts deafening choruses, awkward laughs and 'ooh-aah!' razzle dazzle. Given how much of Blink's repertoire is no-nonsense, no-frills, on-the-nose propulsion, the band have brought a hell of an impressive stage show with them: pyro, fireworks, confetti tape, lasers, moving LCD screens, a flying, spinning drum riser and an inflatable, flying ambulance are just some of the things dished out across a set that crams in 27 songs in less than two hours.

And speaking of songs, what songs Blink have. Feeling This, Stay Together For The Kids, I Miss You, What's My Age Again, All The Small Things...the crowd may be getting older, but the reactions to those choruses are as impassioned and full-hearted as ever, filling the cavernous O2 with ease. Two tracks from 2011's messily conceived Neighborhoods also get a dusting off, as does one song from the Skiba era, Bored To Death, receiving a singalong that more than justifies its place in Blink's arsenal.

As for the three men on stage, Hoppus, DeLonge and the ever-impressive Travis Barker are all on peak form. DeLonge's iconic yowls are in much better shape than during his last run with the band, his trademark harmonising with Hoppus rolling back the years as Barker batters the hell out of the kit behind them like a man possessed. 

The two vocalists' stage patter certainly hasn't aged as well, though you imagine they couldn't care less; no one comes to a Blink show for stimulating political discourse or philosophical discussions on the human experience. Instead, references to semen, "poo poo", "ugly" London girls, pig-shagging and blowjobs are rolled out giddily, Hoppus and DeLonge so keen to one-up each other's nonsense that they spend half the time talking over each other. Barker, wisely, still chooses to opt out of such banter, instead picking his moments to flex his incredible chops behind a drum kit, whether sat behind his two bandmates or 20 feet in the air.

It's perhaps Mark Hoppus' refusal to take 90% of his own schtick seriously that makes his one moment of real vulnerability all the more surprising. Visibly emotional, the bassist introduces Adam's Song by opening up on his experience with cancer, admitting that "There were times I didn't even know if I'd ever be on stage again." "This band and this tour and all of you are saving my life," he adds to the biggest, most emotionally-charged cheer of the whole night. 

Then, five minutes later, he's singing about making out and bum sex. And there is the thrust of Blink-182: one moment they'll make you laugh, the next they'll make you cry, the next they'll make you cringe your guts inside out. You can't help but think, judging by the thousands of beaming faces in front of them, people wouldn't have them any other way.

1. Anthem Part Two
2. The Rock Show
3. Family Reunion
4. Man Overboard
5. Feeling This
6. Violence
7. Up All Night
8. Dumpweed
9. Dysentery Gary
10. More Than You Know
11. Edging
12. Dance With Me
13. Aliens Exist
14. Happy Holidays, You Bastard
15. Happy Holidays, You Bastard (fast version)
16. Stay Together For The Kids
17. Always
18. Down
19. Bored To Death
20. I Miss You
21. Adam's Song
22. Ghost On The Dance Floor
23. What's My Age Again?
24. First Date
25. All The Small Things
26. Dammit
27. One More Time

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.