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Live review: Blink-182 still taps into frenzied fun

September 18, 2009 |  4:52 pm

The reunited trio amps up the racy humor in the first of two concerts at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.


Near the end of Blink-182's show Thursday night at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, bassist Mark Hoppus revealed what anyone who'd witnessed the previous hour already knew -- during the four-year hiatus that this SoCal trio recently ended, his bandmate Tom DeLonge hadn't grow up one bit.

"Donny, you're like a child," Hoppus told the guitarist, paraphrasing a line from "The Big Lebowski."

After calling it quits in 2005, Hoppus, DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker began playing together again late last year following a plane crash that Barker survived but that killed four others, including the drummer's assistant and bodyguard. Blink performed its first concert since 2004 in May at a T-Mobile party on the Paramount Studios lot, and this summer the band's been on the road playing the hits that made it one of the most successful pop-punk acts of all time.

Thursday's show was the first of two at the Irvine venue, which seats approximately 17,000 people.

In its original incarnation, Blink wrote about the traumas and triumphs of teenhood with an uncommon grasp of the duality that defines that age; songs such as "Dammit" and "All the Small Things" delivered a potent mixture of humor and melancholy, hope and resignation.

At Verizon Wireless, the band focused mostly on its lighter side, no doubt a product of the fact that the three members are now in their mid-30s. "This next song is about the three of us," Hoppus joked before the group launched into "Stay Together for the Kids"; both he and DeLonge seemed hesitant to dwell on anything too serious, aware of the absurdity of family men singing about glimpsing the girl of one's dreams at the Warped Tour.

Throughout Blink's 90-minute set, DeLonge maintained a stream-of-consciousness monologue with no shortage of explicit language or ribald single entendres. And any time a lyric offered an opportunity for a sexually minded revision, DeLonge happily took it.

The band's playing was fine, and occasionally less than fine. With the exception of Barker, who performed a virtuosic solo during the group's encore, the members of Blink-182 aren't any more proficient on their instruments than they need to be.

But though it's a less complicated band than it used to be, Blink hasn't lost its ability to tap the frenzied energy of youth. Early on it played "What's My Age Again?," and the question was still an open one.

Playing its final show as the opening act on Blink's current tour, Weezer was as complicated Thursday as it's ever been. (Fall Out Boy will take over warm-up duties beginning with Friday's concert.)

This long-running L.A. outfit has spent the last few years stripping down its fuzzy power-pop sound, yet the streamlining has only served to emphasize the increasing psychological complexity of frontman Rivers Cuomo's songwriting: He's a nerd-turned-star whose open thirst for acceptance makes him an outsider among his alt-culture peers.

Because he adopts a deadpan stage demeanor and wears goofy Buddy Holly glasses, Cuomo is beloved by ironists. But he means everything he says (except when he doesn't).

In Irvine the band ran through early songs such as "Say It Ain't So" and "Why Bother?" alongside more recent material, including its new single, "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To."

Closing Weezer's hourlong set with a jumpy rendition of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash, Cuomo posed a question as pertinent to his group as the one in "What's My Age Again?" was to Blink.

"Exactly who am I supposed to be?"

--Mikael Wood

Photo credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times