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Blink-182 headlines final day of Sunfest 2017

Photo credit The SSE Hydro

It was a day of sweat and anticipation May 7 as a rowdy SunFest crowd — one person was ejected by police for a pre-concert fight —awaited Blink-182’s first headlining festival set in Florida since the departure of founding member Tom DeLonge in 2015.

Drummer Travis Barker was the first to take the stage, followed by Matt Skiba, the longtime vocalist and guitarist of Alkaline Trio, who took over DeLonge’s co-lead singer-guitar duties and lastly, Mark Hoppus, vocals and bass.

The band joyfully launched into “Feeling This,” from their 2003 self-titled release, and followed it up with another one of their hits, “The Rock Show,” from 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

Skiba’s seamless transition to singer and guitarist shone as he effortlessly traded vocal duties with Hoppus. This was especially apparent in “First Date” and a new song, “Bored To Death.” In that song, there were some killer harmonies, something the Southern California-based trio has never been known for. They’ve also adjusted for Skiba’s lower range voice as it sounds like they changed the key of “The Rock Show” slightly.

Blink-182 has seen its share of trials over its 25-year existence: for one, original drummer Scott Raynor’s mysterious exit in Blink’s early days [Raynor is almost never spoken about to this day], 2005’s “indefinite hiatus” [which ended in 2009] to Barker’s near-death experience in 2008 to 2015’s acrimonious split with founding member and co-lead vocalist Tom DeLonge. It’s clear that Skiba taking over co-lead vocal duties has rejuvenated the band, as he and Hoppus share a camaraderie that has been long missing from their live shows.

Before playing “What’s My Age Again,” Hoppus came over to Skiba’s side of the stage and pretended to play the first note of the song on Skiba’s slime-green guitar. He then strode back over to his spot on the stage and sang the first note of the song. Barker even added a drum solo with a flourish at the end that showed why he’s one of the best drummers in the game.

Barker can also exactly reproduce the complicated drum intro on “Always,” also off the 2003 self-titled album. Anyone watching him can see that this is all he’s ever wanted to do: he plays with so much heart.

It’s also good to see the members of Blink haven’t lost their sense of humor, as Hoppus launched into the silly 17-second interlude “Built This Pool,” off the band’s most recent release, 2016’s California, toward the middle of the set: “I wanna see some naked dudes/that’s why I built this pool./Is that really it?”

Fans of Blink-182 were reminded why they love this band during a special moment announced by Hoppus. “We’re going to do something special for you, Sunfest. It’s going to be a moment you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about. … Get out your cellphones, turn on the flashlight feature and watch in confused horror as we perform a song [“Happy Holidays, You Bastard”] completely in the dark.” The crowd complied, happily.

Some other standouts from the set included “I Miss You,” “Parking Lot,” and “She’s Out of Her Mind.” In “I Miss You,” a haunting single off Blink-182, the main guitar line came through the speakers clearly, something that doesn’t always happen at live shows, and brought the eerie vibe of the music and lyrics home.

Parking Lot,” one of the band’s newer singles, brings the listener back to Dude Ranch-era Blink, and got extra muscle at SunFest from Skiba’s punk rock roots. “She’s Out Of Her Mind” is a fun radio bop, but it’s even better live, especially considering that Skiba adds his own flair to the lyrics, changing the last line from “we all need something to live for, oh yeah” to “… all need something to die for.”

Blink also played three songs rarely heard live before the encore: “Anthem Part Two,” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and “Dysentery Gary” and “Dumpweed,” off 1999’s breakout album Enema of the State.

They saved the best for last as the encore included “All The Small Things,” “Brohemian Rhapsody,” off California, and “Dammit,” off Dude Ranch. They capped off the set with confetti and by inviting Barker’s son, Landon, up to the drums and letting him go wild — a real treat, as he takes after his dad.

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