blink-182 Brought Dick Jokes (and Just Enough Depth) to Toronto

Scotiabank Arena, May 11

With Turnstile and Beauty School Dropout

Photo: Karen K. Tran

BY Ian GormelyPublished May 12, 2023

So many dick jokes. There's a reason that The Mark, Tom and Travis Show, blink-182's lone live album, is named after each of the band's three members: watching them onstage is as much about the individual personalities of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker as it is about blink-182 as a unit. 

That dichotomy took centre stage at the Toronto stop for the trio's current reunion tour, where the group mixed favourites from its catalogue with plenty of self-flagellating humour. At first blush, Turnstile are an odd choice to throw into this milieu as openers. But like blink, the hardcore heroes supersized a niche sound (getting labelled sellouts in the process) to the point where a half-full hockey arena was willing to embrace them. For their part, the Baltimore five-piece met the moment, leading the crowd in chants and hand waves and giving Daniel Fang an arena-sized drum solo. You get the impression that, if they want it, they could be filling stadiums themselves not too far down the line. 

Lest anyone fear that middle age, cancer battles, life-threatening plane crashes or CIA security clearance had dulled blink's juvenile sense of humour, the band busted out 30-second curse-word extravaganza "Family Reunion" — "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits, fart, turd and twat" — as the third song of the night. "The Maple Leafs need hand jobs!l" DeLonge proclaimed soon after, presumably in favour of the team. 

For his part, Hoppus seemed thrilled to have his old foil back on stage, setting DeLonge up for repeated zingers about sex with your mom. Barker, mic-less, similarly beamed at the sight in front of him, acting as the band's ridiculously talented backbone. Back in the day, their live sets could be shambolic, the goofs overshadowing the riffs. Now, with their status as festival headliners firmly cemented, and a diamond-shaped stage and pyro to match, they're able to pull off both with aplomb. 

The band's 90-minute set unsurprisingly focused on their glory years, with a few Matt Skiba-era songs ("Bored to Death," "Cynical") thrown in for good measure. "Rock Show" and "Feeling This" were early highlights, but even relative deep cuts like "Dumpweed" "Violence" (played for the first time this tour) and "Dysentery Gary" were treated like hits. 

After playing "Happy Holidays You Bastard" twice for some reason (once with the lights on, and again with the lights off) the band slipped into their more "mature" material, with a stretch of songs that included "Stay Together for the Kids," "Adam's Song" and "I Miss You," in which DeLonge led the crowd in a sing-along of his verse. Barker's drum riser was put on ropes and raised above his bandmates during the section, presumably to add some emotional weight and better showcase his seriously impressive drum fills. Yet, even when trying to elicit real feelings DeLonge just couldn't help himself, changing the lyrics of "Always" from "I'm so sick of fights" to "I'm so sick of handjobs." 

Of course, that was always the band's M.O., and if you're showing up to see them in 2023, that sense of irreverence for their own material is part of and parcel of the band's appeal. And it cuts both ways: Hoppus opted to give a heartfelt and sincere thanks to fans for sticking with him through his fight with cancer during the breakdown of man-child anthem "What's My Age Again?"

That was supposed to end the main set, but the band opted to stay on stage before shifting into their encore, aka "the three songs we're contractually obligated to play," according to Hoppus. They teased the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" before "First Date" and ripped through "All the Small Things" before Hoppus interpolated the Bee Gees into "Dammit," which ended the night. 

Plenty has been made of the band's advancing age, life-threatening experiences and reconciliation. It's tempting to say that "this is growing up," but honestly, any gains in maturity made by the band's members since writing that line 26 years ago were buried under a mountain of dick jokes. Their fans wouldn't have it any other way. 

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