Erik Kabik Photography/ MediaPunch
Monday, July 25, 2016 | 2:40 p.m.
If Tom DeLonge wanted to witness something paranormal, he only needed to attend his former band’s concert Saturday night at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel.
With DeLonge departed to investigate UFOs, Blink-182 produced something that had become alien for the group in recent years with a sonically satisfying show.
DeLonge deserves his share of the credit for building Blink-182 into one of the biggest bands in the world in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. But the production techniques that enabled his shaky vocals to sound passable on recordings were never available in a live setting.
The irrefutable chemistry, and consequent interplay, between DeLonge and co-founder Mark Hoppus was enough to make imperfect performances inconsequential during Blink-182’s prime. That all deteriorated commensurate with the crumbling of their relationship, which Las Vegas caught first hand.
The pair’s final appearance together was a headlining spot at the Wine Amplified festival in October 2014 at MGM Resorts Village, a show reportedly as diminished as their back-to-back nights at the Cosmopolitan pool the year before.
There was symmetry in a market that uniquely watched the DeLonge/Hoppus demise landing the second stop in the latest run of dates featuring new vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba in support of recent release “California.” Seven years to the day of Blink-182 putting on its last memorable local performance, the band regained its form Saturday night.
Regardless of how anyone feels about the new album — personally, it’s scattershot and mediocre — the live show was noticeably improved with Skiba’s soothing voice and raging effort replacing DeLonge’s screech and complacency.
“Your new hero and best friend in the world,” Hoppus said as he introduced Skiba early on.
Skiba, best previously known as the frontman of Alkaline Trio, flexed in a spotlight after Hoppus’ proclamation, but that was unnecessary. He showed off his more important vocal muscles for the band’s entire 80 minutes on stage.
Blink-182 mostly succeeded in picking the highlights to play off of “California,” including “Cynical,” “No Future” and “Kings of the Weekend,” a batch of bratty back-to-basics pop/punk. The only clunker was opening its encore with “Los Angeles,” an uninspired Fall Out Boy-esque stab at a modern rock.
Those three minutes were quickly forgotten by following with automatic crowd-pleasers “All the Small Things” and “Dammit.”
Skiba managed deeper DeLonge-centric cuts like “Dysentery Gary” and “Reckless Abandon” with grace. The band’s most gifted member, drummer Travis Barker, was so vicious he broke his snare drum during the 16-second joke song “Built This Pool.”
Despite peppering the setlist with many of its juvenile numbers and coming out to the stage in front of a flaming expletive, Blink-182 felt like the least sophomoric band on the bill.
Frontman Tyson Ritter of opening act All-American Rejects, which have sold millions of albums with a Blink-182 influenced sound, spent an inordinate amount of time rambling and trying to make jokes. The biggest one may have inadvertently been new single “DGAF,” a lazy synth-driven ode to nihilism that featured cringe worthy rhymes and acknowledged its own absurdity.
“We don’t care if you hate us for this song,” Ritter crooned. “We’re not listening.”
Direct supporters A Day To Remember smoldered with the same attitude, stomping around the Joint during breakdowns wrapped around classic pop/punk verses. The straightforward approach contains a lot of empty calories, but fans gobbled them up and, at one point, created four separate mosh pits on the floor.
When singer Jeremy McKinnon issued a “reminder” that Blink-182 was next, it didn’t feel without purpose.
A Day To Remember T-shirts likely outnumbered Blink-182 ones in the audience as the Ocala, Fla., band played with the confidence of a headliner. Crew members threw out rolls of toilet paper and mega-sized beach balls during the set before the band exited to streamers shooting out of the ceiling.
A Day To Remember seemed more comfortable alongside each other than Blink-182 for parts of the show. Although Hoppus and Skiba complemented each other extraordinarily well while blasting through 24 songs, there were few exchanges in between.
Only Hoppus addressed the sold-out crowd. Fan interaction was once a big part of Blink-182’s live appeal, and it’s an area where DeLonge will be missed.
It’s also a minor reason why his eventual return, whether it’s in six months or six years, for a classic-lineup reunion is inevitable. In the meantime, Hoppus and Barker have found a way to continue while DeLonge indulges in the mysterious without endangering the band’s legacy.
No one will look back on the current era with Skiba as a waste. At the very least, this version of Blink-182 has resulted in a return of its concert charm.