Seeing Blink-182 live is kind of like viewing a moment suspended in time: The music hasn't changed, and the band's NOFX-knock-off-style masturbation conversations are identical to a decade and a half ago. But consistency is a huge factor in a pop punk band's success, and as the forefathers of the genre, Blink-182 gets it. And will probably continue to make the same record and use the same jokes on stage until they can't play anymore. Opening with "Feeling This," the dudes had hardly changed, wearing the same hair and attitudes they had sported for the last twenty years. Between songs like "Rock Show" and "What's My Age Again?," jokes of the dick and Dirty Sanchez variety flew, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus gleefully finishing each other's sentences. Black and white images of suburban homes and subdivisions splattered the background, while the visual boom of stage lights and lasers beamed down on the crowd. Slower songs like "I Miss You" and "Always" came off in perfect time, only to be slightly atmospherically offset by more jokes about sex and incest -- and those too were broken up, as Travis Barker interjected random drum solos. But middle school laughs for Blink are a dime a dozen, and the crowd (just as much as the band itself) relished in the variety show. The night repeated this song-joke-pause-drum solo routine over and over again, with "Happy Holidays, You Bastard," "All The Small Things," "Josie" and of course, "Dammit" coming and going in Blink's signature pleasing, major chord tones.
Much like 2010's Honda Civic Tour, last night's show was weighed down heavily by annoying, uncomfortably pushy advertising from the car company, using the stars of the tour as its conduit. Earlier in the day, Rancid opened KTCL Big Gig -- as the tour stop had been rebranded locally -- to a less than full, less than interested amphitheatre, the East Bay veterans hardly getting as much as a nod from a crowd that was, by all accounts, in preschool when the band saw its first mainstream success in the mid '90s.
Opening with "Radio," Rancid tried to hype the seated audience as best it could, but the effort was fruitless. "Roots Radical" let Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederikson's signature voices intertwine beautifully, though the sound in the venue did them no justice. Through each band's set, drum kits were over-miked and the popping punch of bass and snare were painful to human ears. Vocals were drowned out in the messy mix (which came to an awful, most noticeable head later with Blink-182). Faint traces of Hellcat Records hoodies, Exploited back patches and freshly raised Liberty spikes could be seen throughout the crowd, but for the most part, it was clear that kids were there to see My Chemical Romance and Blink. Rancid seemed fine with the notion, pushing through its short, forty-minute set with smiles and highlights from the band's two best-known albums, Let's Go and ...And Out Come The Wolves. Closing out with an extended version of "Time Bomb" and "Ruby Soho," Armstrong grinned and hopped up and down on the monitors, while his signature low-slung Gretsch bounced above his knee.
Luckily, the audience was only subjected to twenty-minutes of advertisement hell between the first two sets, and My Chemical Romance walked onto a dark stage just after 8 p.m. Opening with "Na Na Na." The high-drama band seemed a bit toned down and understandably; with just under 45-minutes to get in and out, there wasn't much room for its usual sci-fi, Queen-inspired thematic fanfare.
Still, pretty-haired lead singer Gerard Way had plenty of time for his signature mopey microphone stand leans and forlorn glances during songs like "The Kids From Yesterday," "Teenagers" and "S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W." Way has an inherent, Billy Corgan martyrdom-air about him -- which actually translates to a sincere connection to his audience from his position on stage.
Between the fake fog and epic synth lines, Way mentioned the anniversary of his marriage to his wife Lyn-z (whom he donned an air-brushed unicorn shirt in honor of) at a Denver show backstage four years ago, before going into "Helena." My Chemical Romance closed with "Cancer," the set moving quickly, flawlessly and fairly uneventfully.
Personal Bias: I love Rancid. I'm old.
By The Way: The family behind me was drunk before 9 p.m. Mom was crying, dad was yelling, kids were beyond embarrassed.
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Random Detail: A small child was on stage during Rancid's set, and then reappeared during Blink's. He played an unplugged guitar and had his own microphone, pop punk-posing with both the whole set (and shirtless at some points). I'm assuming he was the spawn of Travis Barker, as he was hanging off the drum kit when he wasn't lip-syncing.