Blink-182, The O2, London

Live Review

Blink-182, The O2, London: The iconic pop-punk trio make a celebratory return to the capital

11th October 2023

Tom, Mark and Travis’ return to London is a poignant, joyful, and - at times - ramshackle night to remember.

“If I’m being totally honest, I cannot stop thinking about them coming,” began the cheeky, on-the-nose video that marked Blink-182’s long-awaited reunion announcement and sent the internet into overdrive. Now - exactly a year to the day since that news first broke - the iconic pop-punk trio play their first show in the UK, and - as you might’ve guessed - it’s the hottest ticket in town.

Kick-starting their UK run after an unexpected change of plan with their earlier Glasgow shows rescheduled due to drummer Travis Barker having to return home for a family emergency, by the time bassist Mark Hoppus begins his showtime ritual of streaming live from his Instagram page, the atmosphere inside The O2 is at fever pitch. Tonight, all cynicism seems cast aside, as fans donning merch from across the band’s 30+ year career whip out their phone and join the broadcast from their seats, knowing it means they’ll hit the stage soon. And when they do - their iconic smiley face logo slowly plastered across the video screens - theirs is a heroes’ welcome, a lump firmly in the throats of many who thought this day might never come.

Blink-182, The O2, London

This celebratory spirit infuses the show as a whole, as the crowd roar along to every second of their hefty 27-strong setlist. And while some moments provide proper spine-tingly stuff - Travis' phenomenal drumming during self-titled cut ‘Violence’; the volume that ‘I Miss You’’s iconic second verse is sung back at them; the indoor fireworks which are set off during ‘Dammit’ - there is still something a little ramshackle present. Between-song banter between Mark and guitarist Tom Delonge comes off rushed and, at times, nonsensical, while the juvenile jokes - which, of course, have populated so much of their career - don’t always land. In complete contrast, the humour of their early tracks - their self-declared “national anthem” ‘Family Reunion’ gets an early look-in, while ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’ is given a turbocharged second airing - is a giddy delight, serving up a dose of naughty nostalgia for the halcyon days of the 90s.

Regardless, tonight is a poignant but joyful affair, perhaps best captured during Mark’s speech introducing ‘Adam’s Song’: “I felt like I was dying, and there were days where I felt like I wanted to die,” he pauses, visibly choked up, referencing his recent cancer battle, as Tom whips support from the crowd. “I was shitty and empty, and then we started recording and touring, and this band - this tour, and every single one of you here tonight - is saving my life a second time.” It's an undeniably powerful admission, and that it comes from one of pop-punk’s most iconically tongue-in-cheek bands shows just how much this means to them. They might have had to reach the brink once again to get here, but there’s not a person in The O2 this evening that’s not thrilled they did.

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