Kansas City isn’t a big enough town to host too many dilemmas for concert-goers, but on Friday night it had a doozie. After putting out a fantastic, ambient soft rock album, Bon Iver played to a sold out 2,000 capacity Uptown Theater; way out on the side of town, the almost polar-opposite of a band, Top-of-the-World Pop-Punkers blink-182 played an amphitheater nine times as large that looked well-over half full. The divide speaks to blink-182’s appeal – no one could ever argue Pop-Rock juggernaut is a great band, but they’re absolutely great at what they do.
With hit singles like “All The Small Things” and “I Miss You,” there’s no question that blink led the late-90s, early-00s Pop Punk tidal wave. Bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41 found some success, but blink-182 is the only member of the club that still gets its singles played on the radio.
After an abrupt four year hiatus and two-year recording process, the band is back with their first album since the height of their popularity in 2003. It’s worth wondering if the diminution of Rock on the charts might keep blink-182 from ever reaching the same highs again. It’s probably foolish to believe they can ever get to those levels again, but not according to the walloping crowd that filled Sandstone Amphitheater.
Even as far back as I was – closer to rear of the GA pit – a mosh pit formed behind me, one of what must have been several. This was an energetic crowd to say the least – after four songs, the band had to take a break from their set to convince the stage left crowd to calm down and step away from a barricade that had broken during an opening set (more on that below).
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the crowd was as spirited as it was. This was an act that surely served as a gateway band for an entire generation of kids that wanted to be immature and caffeinated, but wouldn’t find their way to a Clash album until High School. That blink-182 can write a good anthemic, angry pop song isn’t the real issue here, it’s that these are songs that the crowd was raised on.
On stage, the band did everything they could between songs to keep its audience in a spirited mood. Guitarist Tom Delonge might be 35-years-old, but he sounded like a preteen with a fascination for perversity out of earshot of his parents, inserting phrases like “Mother Fucker” and “Justin Bieber” into his choruses. He was helped by bassist Mark Hoppus, delivering dialogues that have probably been hashed out in front of other audiences (it showed, many of these routines had better timing than some of their songs).
This shouldn’t be surprising. Delonge and Hoppus know how to write a catchy pop song, but as musicians they’ve never shown much talent. Thank goodness their other member, Travis Barker, is beast behind the drums. Barker can get carried away with his preternatural speed and shotgun-bounce, but when he’s in check he’s the only member of blink-182 that brings any real dynamic to the music. As Delonge and Hoppus traded butt jokes, Barker was left without a microphone – but he didn’t need one, he just kept dropping unique rimshots to every mention of a penis delivered by his bandmates.
But despite the unequal distribution of talent in the band, the three piece (without aid of any touring musicians) coalesced without any single one necessarily sticking out. For a band perfectly situated for middle schoolers, blink-182 is surprisingly old – it’s current line-up alone dates back thirteen years, and even after a four-year break, their cohesion has stuck.
Bon Iver fans at the Uptown probably received a fantastic performance from an incredibly talented young songwriter, and I wish I could have seen him. But blink-182 shouldn’t be dismissed as just a lesser act to Indie Rock’s current favorite son. blink-182 is a band that has left an undeniable mark in the music landscape of anyone who was in seventh grade around the turn of the century, and when they show up to remind their fans of their childhoods, it can make for just as good of a show as anyone else could deliver
If any band took blink’s place during its hiatus, it was co-headliner My Chemical Romance. The two bands don’t share a lot of similarities, but they appeal to a surprisingly similar audience. The theatrical emo outfit puts on a suitibly energetic show, but they brought little passion to Friday’s set. That’s made up for by their wildly energetic music, with lead vocalist Gerard Way sqealling and squealching into styles that range from marching bands, Gypsy Rock, and reliable ol’ synth-driven punk. But their sound is defined by guitarist Ray Toro, who somehow incorporates a sound that owes a lot to Queen into bullet-beat songs. MCR could have been hindered by the recent replacement of their drummer, a shift that took place just this week. To this casual fan, though, the percussion sounded just as I remembered it.
As excited as the crowd was for the headliner, it may not have topped the excitement seen for MyChemicalRomance. Towards the end of their hour set, the barricade at the front of the crowd was broken down, requiring thick wood braces for the rest of the night to keep the performers safe.
Both bands were inevitably warmed up by opener Matt & Kim. The duo has headlined shows at the Granada and the Beaumont Club over the past year, if this weren’t a show with acts as big MCR or blink-182, they’d be deserving of a later spot in the schedule. With their 35-minute set, Matt & Kim breezed through their blast and bang sound – with just a drum set and a couple of keyboards, their unironic, Red Bull-fueled repertoire sent the early crowd into cheers. Their music isn’t quite cut out for radio play, but it’s so instantly rewarding and kinetic that anyone, even fans who may have showed up for the later acts, were glad to have come early.
By Ian McFarland