LIVE: Blink-182 / Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls @ The O2, London

By Christopher Lee

The gods of pop punk, Blink-182 finally make their way to London Town some two years after Matt Skiba took over from the ever-present, founding member Tom DeLonge. It might seem like that happened a million years ago, but this tour is actually the first time the new line-up has played a whole bonafide tour together in this incarnation. Sure, the guys played a few acoustic shows last year following the release of ‘California’, but this time around we get to see exactly what they’re made of.

Up first though, the uplifting Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, who are tasked with getting the crowd warmed up for Blink – not that anyone in attendance needs it. Their set is one of happiness and joy. The arena is practically full already, and the uplifting folk rock tones of tracks such as ‘Get Better’ and ‘I Still Believe’ get everyone up and on their feet dancing. Turner himself does a great job of interacting with the crowd at every single opportunity, and the Safe Gigs 4 Women movement gets an extra special mention. It’s something he clearly feels strongly about, as we all should.

The funniest moment of the set comes when Turner calls out a “competition winner” to play the harmonica during ‘Dan’s Song. It turns out the winner is in fact Mark Hoppus, much to the amusement of everyone. “If he does a good job maybe we’ll let him play some of his own songs later,” Turner says. All in all, the band get everyone in the perfect mood for the mighty Blink-182.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity of waiting, the house lights dim and a huge roar of anticipation erupts, as we await Hoppus, Skiba & Barker. Sure enough, their entrance doesn’t disappoint. As a huge Union Jack flag emblazoned with the Blink logo falls to the ground, the guys open up with ‘Feeling This’, and guess what? Everyone here is definitely feeling it.

Like seasoned pros, the trio power through 75 minutes of unadulterated Blink goodness, the bulk of which is made up of tracks from ‘California’, but it’s mixed with every classic you could possibly want to hear. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of fire, and some incredible artwork displayed on the huge backdrop, but none of this takes away from their performance.

In previous outings Blink’s vocal performances have been somewhat missing. But not tonight. Skiba’s polished vocals give the band a slightly different tone to when DeLonge was present. Nevertheless, there are still parts where he’s missed, as tracks like ‘I Miss You’ would have benefited from his not-quite-perfect vocals.

This in no way takes anything away from the band. If anything, they’ve improved a huge amount, and they deliver an exemplary show. The crowd lap up every moment, singing along at the top of their lungs to a show that is everything it should be. By the time an epic encore of ‘Dammit’ and ‘All The Small Things’ is done with, Barker brings out his son Landon to perform a drum solo, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. Drumming clearly runs in the Barker family blood. It might be an odd way to end a show, but tonight has been magical and Blink are still holding up the bar that every pop punk band should aspire to reach.