With eighteen months worth of anticipation building since Blink 182's decision to postpone their original UK dates to focus on recording, their 20th Anniversary tour has been a long time coming for fans who either missed, or have been waiting to see them live again since their raucous headline slot at Reading and Leeds Festival back in 2010.
Despite their transition into markedly darker territory to deal with more "adult" themes on "Neighborhoods", there is still an overwhelming percentage of the crowd who were naught but glints in their parents eyes at the time of Blink 182's original formation in 1992. What that tells us (as if anyone needs telling) is that Blink 182 are a band who will continue to enrapture and influence audiences, managing to stay relevant regardless of time or place.
With that in mind, their current shows are attended by a mixed bag of several generations worth of fans: teenage girls still rocking the emo sweep and stripy knee-high socks, crust punks in Faith No More t-shirts waiting for tracks off "Cheshire Cat" to furiously air drum to, awkward pre-pubescent kids trying to ignore their mothers watching them from a few metres away, and people like me - twenty-somethings actively trying not to grow up, who spent their early teens waiting for 'Dammit' and 'All The Small Things' to appear on TV so we could record them onto a VHS tape alongside the video for 'You're Not Alone' by Home Grown and pretty much anything else released by Drive Thru.
Still, regardless of the maturity that came hand in hand with their more recent material, Blink 182 will never not be associated with prank phone-calling between beer-soaked make-out sessions after a long day at the skate park, but everything about their live performance indicates that they're okay with that, their fans are okay with that, and jokes about being sick on yourself will continue to transcend the barriers of age. So as the curtain lifts to reveal Mark, Tom and Travis before a backdrop of black and white high contrast video footage, and the blistering opening drum line of 'Feeling This' kicks in, the entire venue explodes. All those months - years, for some - of pent up excitement are released, peaking almost instantly and riding at that level for the next hour and a half, never to waver or drop, even during the more mellow songs like 'I Miss You' where arms are thrown around friends' shoulders instead of in the air.
The main body of the set is essentially a 'Greatest Hits' compilation covering all six of their studio albums to date. After opener 'Feeling This', they go on to blitz through 'Up All Night', 'The Rock Show' and 'What's My Age Again?' before throwing in 'Always', 'First Date', 'All The Small Things' for good measure as well as the more, what would now be considered (to the detriment of many delusional ego's), "old school" hits 'Dumpweed', 'Man Overboard' and 'Josie'.
Sometimes, when such a poignant band return to the spotlight after a hiatus', there's always the worry that they'll never be able to live up to how, what, or who they were before, but Blink 182 play each song with the same energy, dedication and feeling that they had when they first started twenty years ago. Sure, there are less jokes about ploughing each others mom's, but they're still having fun with it (with the added bonus of having finally nailed how to harmonize properly) and they hardly miss a step - except for when Tom accidentally sings the first verse of 'Violence' twice, which he has apparently been doing all tour. Mark even throws in a shortened a cappella version of Justin Bieber's 'Baby', because why not.
After the main set, Mark and Tom relocate to a small stage set up near the sound desk to play acoustic versions of 'Reckless Abandon' and 'Wasting Time' - both solid and heartfelt renditions of songs that have the potential to fall flat when the pace is slowed. Their transition back to the main stage for the encore allows room for a token Travis Barker solo, as if his relentless performance throughout the 23 song set wasn't enough to make all the drummers in the audience want to go home and weep over their own inadequacies. He bleeds his way through 'Can A Drummer Get Some' with a nauseating amount of talent before uniting with Mark and Tom to finish out the night with 'Carousel', 'Dammit' and 'Family Reunion'.
If you have any doubts of Blink 182's ability to revisit their former glory, or feel suspicious about whether a bunch of now-fathers in their late thirties should still be allowed to sing about fucking dogs in the ass, then cast them aside immediately, and shame on you. Throw on "Dude Ranch" and try to tell me that all those lyrics about being drunk, chasing crushes, and binging on Mexican food don't have a significant and unshakable place in your heart.
Words by Emma Garland
Photos taken by Daniel Mackie