Growing up was never going to be an easy proposition for Tom DeLonge. But dammit, he’s actually almost done it.
On Thursday, the king of late ’90s/early ’00s dick jokes and poo-poo humor returned to the Twin Cities for the first time since Blink-182 played the Xcel Energy Center on their 2011 reunion tour. DeLonge is no longer a member of the TRL era-defining pop-punks—having left over artistic differences twice—but the fervor with which he and his band, Angels & Airwaves, were welcomed back at First Avenue suggested the area’s twenty- and thirty-somethings are just as ready to move past that sophomoric period of his life as he is.
Which is to say, not entirely. Angels & Airwaves is DeLonge’s chance to be both Bono and The Edge for the ex-mall punk set, playing feedback-drenched songs about universal concepts like love, wonder, and outer space, but the 23-year-old version of him is always just a sixth-grade knee-slapper away. For every time he spoke about “changing the way you think about your brothers and sisters across the ocean” at First Ave, there was a mention of “tribal people on the other side of the world with boners” to counter it.
DeLonge switched between personas even more often than he flipped his baseball cap back and forth, sometimes from sentence to sentence. “Most people think that this next song is about everything being hunky-dory,” the 43-year-old informed the audience before jumping into the deeply earnest 2007 hit “Everything’s Magic.” “But really, it’s about how God created the vagina!”
With the first new Angels & Airwaves record in six years due in 2020, the sold-out gig served as a retrospective of the group’s first five LPs. Interestingly, the band’s more recent output featured more heavily than the two albums, 2006 debut We Don’t Need to Whisper and the following year’s I-Empire, that filled the Blink-sized hole in the hearts of so many in attendancein the mid-‘00s.
“Surrender” and “The Wolfpack” were highlights from 2011’s Love: Part Two and 2014’s The Dream Walker, but it was songs like “The Adventure” (from Whisper) and set closer “Heaven” (I-Empire) that really knocked the crowd out. As DeLonge and company channeled U2, there were all the hallmarks of a show by another group whose name ends in “2”—crowd-surfing, mosh pits, a guy dressed up as the singer’s mustached, wannabe porn star character from Blink-182’s “First Date” video flipping off the stage and crowd from the balcony.
The concert’s emotional climax suggested that DeLonge also worships at the altar of another stadium rock legend. He mixed Blink-182 fan favorites “I Miss You” and “Aliens Exist” with “There Is,” from his 2002 side project Box Car Racer, into a 15-minute medley that was punctuated by an abbreviated autobiography, mapping his journey from a high school sophomore getting blown off by his crushes to chart-topping rock star to, through his A&A-adjacent To the Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, respected UFO hunter who got the Navy to acknowledge the existence of extraterrestrial life. This may sound like sacrilege to some, but it was a stirring moment reminiscent of Springsteen’s extended monologues on family and philosophy in live performances of “Growin’ Up.”
Dammit, Tom DeLonge is my generation’s Bono and Bruce. I guess this is growing up.
Critic’s bias: As the current iteration of Blink-182 continues to aim for pop relevance and wants you to forget DeLonge ever existed (they dress up Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba to look the part), I’m wholeheartedly Team Tom. You want to talk about sacrilege—their most recent tour featured a full performance of 1999’s Enema of the State, with Skiba doing DeLonge’s lead vocals on such turn-of-the-millennium classics as “All the Small Things” and “Anthem.” Tom’s supposed to sing, “Forgive our neighbor Bob/I think he humped the dog,” you sell-outs!
Dry Your Eyes
Moon as My Witness
Kiss with a Spell
I Miss You/There Is/Aliens Exist
Kiss & Tell
Do It for Me Now