A concert with two headliners deserves two reviewers, right?
Well, maybe not. But when web editor Jay Boller and music editor Keith Harris discovered they had a shared musical past with Blink-182 (see below for details), they decided to tackle the Lil Wayne/Blink show at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night and compare notes afterward.
Here are their findings.
Keith: So, let’s start by explaining the bit. Jay, you were at the Blink-182 show at Midway Stadium in St. Paul in 2000, right?
Jay: Keith, hello! I certainly was, along with my dad, Mark, and my pal Casey. We were 12 and it was the most rock ‘n’ roll day of our lives up to that point. You were also there, correct?
Keith: Yep, I went with my dad too. Except I was 30, and reviewing the show for the Pioneer Press. Pretty sure I was the oldest person there who was not chaperoning a teen or standing on stage.
Jay: I don’t remember much about that day. Travis was sidelined with an injury. It was the Mark, Tom, and Travis Show Tour, which would be released as a live album later that year. I got sunburnt. What do you remember?
Keith: I remember one of the guys in the band scolding the crowd for not taking care of each other in the pit—he said something like, “Pretend you’ve been at a punk show before.” And I remember seeing a huge line for the payphone afterwards when all the kids had to call their parents for rides.
Jay: Payphones! We are old. So, fast-forwarding 19 years, a lot has changed. Co-leader Tom DeLonge quit to hunt aliens professionally. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba came aboard to play Tom DeLonge karaoke professionally. And Blink is still headlining arenas… except with Lil Wayne?
Keith: Also, does the Xcel even have payphones?
Jay: Payphones would have made sense on Thursday, if only as one-off nostalgia props, since that seemed to be the theme of the night, at least for the extremely undersold crowd. Becoming an adult with disposable income is a wild ride in a lot of ways, but having nostalgia tours from still-not-that-old bands marketed to me is maybe the wildest part. And that’s exactly what Blink is up to with this tour, where the group plays their 1999 pop-punk opus, Enema of the State, in entirety each night.
Keith: Ha, yeah, it’s really something to watch a crowd* of adults 20 years younger than you getting swept up in their first wave of packaged pop nostalgia. It’s especially interesting when the album being remembered is (as I’ve always heard it) about kind of reluctantly realizing that your stunted adolescent schtick is losing its charm. (*“Crowd” is probably too generous a word for a show as undersold as this was. The upper decks were totally empty.)
Jay: There was still plenty of enthusiasm for Lil Wayne, the oddly billed rap superstar who threatened to quit this very tour after the first show. I’m glad he stuck on though! As I said to you during his hour-long opening set, Weezy is more punk rock than Blink. The dude gives zero fucks—just loves rapping his butt off and vaping onstage.
Keith: He has such a reputation as a no-show here in town—he missed, what, three shows in three years or something—that it’s always wild to see what a pro he is on stage. This was a lot like his Soundset performance back in May—just bars after bars after bars, hardly any time wasted on hooks, that clipped “thank you” of his ending every song.
Jay: Those cordial “thank yous” were so adorable! His space-alien charm won me over the whole time. The DJ reminded us that he’s the “best rapper alive” about a dozen times; Wayne, a noted Packers superfan, politely declined to shit-talk the Vikings; we were asked to high-five our best friends at least a handful of times. The vibes, Keith, I gotta say: They were good.
Keith: Right? And for a guy who chemically abused himself relentlessly for so many years, his technique, his breath control—it’s really something to see. And he called himself “Lil John Wayne” when he rhymed over the “Old Town Road” beat.
Jay: The “Old Town Road” moment was so fun! He hopped on a couple other tracks from other artists, dipped into his killer mixtape era with a hard-ass run through “Rollin’,” and then effortlessly swerved back to hits like “A Milli” that got the (admittedly small) audience quaking.
Keith: And admittedly white, which didn’t stop too many of them from inappropriately singing/rapping along to that one word that white people are not allowed to sing/rap along to /end rant.
Jay: Yes, not… comfortable. For as much love as Wayne got, though, it was pretty clear this very white audience was there for “the big homies” Blink-182, as Weezy described them three times.
Keith: And Blink was … fine, I guess?
Jay: That’s accurate. They had an almost unfair advantage with the Enema nostalgia catnip, millennial hearts in their goddamn palms, but the songs just didn’t pop for me. In fact, the gallop through those 12 tracks inspired me to disavow my 2016 review! I was wrong, Keith, a true fool: After that Xcel show, I declared that the band didn’t need DeLonge. It became clear to me last night that Skiba, who’s a goth-y brooder with AK3, is a generic throwaway when imitating Mark Hoppus’ lifelong songwriting partner. God help me, I miss Tom’s ridiculous nasal vocal theatics.
Keith: They’re totally essential to the band’s sound! I get that they’re grown men and all now, but Tom’s perpetually adolescent whine has to be in the mix for those songs to make sense. Three words that would fix the problem? Hologram. Tom. DeLonge.
Jay: Ha! Maybe, once Tom finally discovers advanced alien races, they can loan us even more compelling hologram tech. Still, if the purpose of a concert is to satisfy ticket buyers, I think these attendees probably left happy. There were a ton of smiles, friends locked in arm embraces, massive singalongs. For the first half, that is. It’s sorta cheap heat when you know the place will explode for “What’s My Age Again?,” which it absolutely did, but it’s also impossible to resist.
Once Enema concluded, things got a little weird. Sort of a Blink variety show. There was the acoustic revue, featuring Skiba confusing everyone with a cover of the recently deceased Daniel Johntston’s “Funeral Home” and Hoppus’ charming run through one of the oldest Blink track’s, 1995’s “Wasting Time.” Then Travis Barker, always reminding us what a monster drummer he is, paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle by drumming upside down in a rotating steel cage. Then… ugh… “new stuff,” plus a small sampler of post-Enema jams, including go-to powerhouse closer “Dammit.”
Keith: When all three of them were back on stage together, after the interlude/drum solo, what should have felt like an encore was sort of a weird directionless coda. Oh, also, I almost totally forgot that two songs into their Enema set they killed the momentum with the new song “I Really Wish I Hated You,” which was taped for Monday Night Football. (The NFL has musical interludes now?) It’s never a good sign when you finish playing your single and say, “That was longer than I expected” followed by a semi-surprised “I like that song.”
Jay: They also made the fatal error of bringing some fan from Green Bay onstage to play along to “All the Small Things.” A disapproving “skol” chant erupted.
Keith: I hope that dude at least got to bond with Weezy after the show. I did like Hoppus’ callback later in the show though: “I wouldn’t lie to you. I’d lie to the guy from Green Bay.”
Jay: Totally. Hoppus’ banter has evolved from the piss/cum/shit early days. He’s a genuinely likeable and funny dude. He just needs to make nice with DeLonge, then maybe me and you reunite for another two-person Blink roundtable?
Keith: Deal. If I’m doing the math right, we meet back here in … 2038?
Jay: It’s a date, buddy. (Also: Skiba was underwhelming on “First Date.”)