CINCINNATI — Imagine going to see Kim Kardashian at a book signing and having her show up in a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants and a baggy T-shirt. Now, picture going to see the reunited Blink-182 and making it all the way through their 90-minute set without hearing a single poop or pee joke. Unthinkable, right?
Well, that's what happened Thursday night at Riverbend Music Center in front of more than 20,000 screaming fans at what the band said was the biggest crowd on their summer tour to date. Gig #13 turned out to be a lucky one for Travis, Tom and Mark, as the adoring, mostly teen and pre-teen crowd showered them with love and vocal assistance while the boys returned the favor with their typical F-bomb-filled stage patter and frenzied pop-punk classics.
The show opened with a bang, as the band blazed through "Feeling This," "What's My Age Again?" and the moody, Cure-like "I Miss You" in front of a towering set made up of six round video screens that looked like the inside of a giant spaceship. Though many in the crowd looked like they were barely out of grade school when [artist id="783"]Blink[/artist] called it quits five years ago, they shouted along to the bouncy "Stay Together for the Kids" like it was the anthem of their youth.
Maybe it's a function of time and distance, but all three band members seemed both more accomplished at their instruments and, yes, more mature this time around. Despite his barrage of F-bombs and taunts to the crowd about local sports heroes, singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge's voice sounded slightly less nasal and more robust than in the past and his guitar playing was more nuanced. Drummer Travis Barker showed off his clearly amped-up abilities, tossing in some nuanced, jazzy fills on "Stockholm Syndrome" and blowing minds during the encore with an athletic drum solo that featured him floating on his drum riser over the stage, tilted down at a 30-degree angle and spinning around in an homage to [artist id="997"]Mötley Crüe[/artist]'s Tommy Lee.
DeLonge and bassist/singer Mark Hoppus played off of each other all night, with cross-talk that provided proof that whatever animus broke the band up five years ago, they've overcome it and are loving playing together again. They gave each other a bro-hug on behalf of the audience before "Adam's Song," which kept building and building until it sounded like the place was going to explode. And, in a moment that rarely ever happens at big rock shows, Hoppus not only thanked the opening acts, he actually sang bits of songs from each, albeit with made-up garbled lyrics.
By the time they got to "All the Small Things" and "Josie," the band's pop-punk theatrics took a back seat to the roaring vocals from the crowd, who treated both songs like they were classic rock anthems from the 1970s. The smiles on Tom and Mark's faces as the show ended said it all.
Co-headliners [artist id="1235716"]Fall Out Boy[/artist] played a no-nonsense 45 minutes of speedy arena-pop that verged from '80s glam metal to, well, '80s pop, courtesy of their unironic cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." And for an audience that was barely born when Blink first rolled out, the amount of buy-in on the cheesy FM radio staple's soaring chorus was truly impressive — helped, no doubt, by a vocal assist from Panic! At The Disco singer Brendon Urie.
Otherwise, FOB stuck to what they do best: big-hearted, stomping anthems like "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," the dino rock of "I Don't Care" and "I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me," which spotlighted drummer Andy Hurley's thundering chops.
At one point, bassist Pete Wentz stopped to thank Blink for bringing the band out on tour with them, saying he grew up on the band's Dude Ranch album and referring to them as "big brothers."
Pharrell protégés Chester French opened with a 20-minute set of caffeinated synth-pop that included their homage to sexy shoes, "Jimmy Choos," and sexier groupies, "Bebe Buell."
With new guitarist Ian Crawford (the Cab) and bassist Dallon Weekes (the Brobecks) in tow, [artist id="3174078"]Panic! At the Disco[/artist] 2.0 played a 40-minute blitz of their signature paisley pop. But in place of the foppish, ruffled shirts, psychedelic circus performers and modern dandy look they began shedding more than a year ago, the streamlined quartet came out in slim, shiny dark suits and played a lean set with a more rock-edged sound.
From "Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off," to "Camisado" and "That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)," the band drove a little harder and faster than they used to, with singer Urie engaging in a bit of sexually charged banter with his young admirers. The band also showed off their new single, the sing-songy pop tune "New Perspective," which gave mop-topped guitarist Crawford a chance to show off a few vintage 1984 guitar tricks.
All in all, it was a super-charged, triumphant night for the bands and their fans, especially a trio of Blink fanatics who were at the very front and center of the barriers. Wearing a coonskin cap, Kentucky native Brandon Rogers, 21, said he hadn't slept for three days in anticipation of seeing Blink for the first time. "Their music defined our childhood year," he said. "They represent our age."
He was joined by pal Jonathan Dooley, also sweating it out under a coonskin cap, and 18-year-old Rebecca Schweingruber, who said she'd been listening to Blink since fifth grade and had left home at 3 a.m. to make sure she was first in line to enter the venue. "I was so stoked about this show, my brother and I partied for two days before we came down," she said.