"I guess this is growing up," is the chorus to Blink-182's most famous song, "Dammit (Growing Up)," and that sentiment played out in front of 16,000 fans on Friday night during the kickoff of the Honda Civic Tour at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Although San Diego's Blink-182 and Jersey City's My Chemical Romance have a generation and an entire country separating them, they've had a remarkably similar musical journey; in fact, you could argue that MCR's breakthrough single "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" was another rendering of the adolescent frustration Blink channeled on "Dammit (Growing Up)," and the evening proved that both acts have entered musical adulthood gracefully.
During their 20-song, nearly two-hour headlining set, Blink debuted four songs from their upcoming album Neighborhoods, including the first single "Up All Night," which features experimental guitar riffage and a quasi-ska drum beat. Bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge traded verses about the "demons that keep [them] up all night," which continued in the same progressive vein as their last album, 2003's Blink-182.
Later, the grinning and shirtless drummer Travis Barker propelled the melodic hardcore of "Heart's All Gone," which was released online the day before the show, with what seemed like eight limbs. They followed that up with another newbie, the synth-driven "After Midnight," and"Ghost On The Dancefloor," a new wave-influenced number that sounded so big you'd think there were twice as many musicians onstage.
But Blink know that the audience didn't want to hear all their new material - Hoppus joked they should grab a beer or go to the bathroom before they played "After Midnight." So they unleashed a run of solid gold classics, and it's easy to forget just how many they have: "Dumpweed," the opener from 1999's Enema Of The State, "Feeling This," "What's My Age Again," "Stay Together for the Kids," "All The Small Things," and "Josie," which saw even the security guards breaking character to mouth the lyrics.
Later, Barker kicked off the band's encore by playing a five-minute drum solo from a crane that raised him above the crowd and nearly scraped the venue's ceiling, and Blink closed with "Dammit (Growing Up)." It seemed as if the song had an added resonance as Blink embark on the next stage of their career. And it was difficult not to get caught up in the collective excitement of a sold-out arena of people singing along to the once-ubiquitous hit as black-and-white confetti showered the pavilion.
"Thank you so much, best first-show ever," DeLonge said when it was over, and despite all of the dick jokes that preceded his statement, you could tell he was being sincere. Now this is growing up.
Earlier, openers My Chemical Romance delivered their own version of the sonic fountain of youth. With drummer Mike Pedicone (The Bled) and keyboardist/percussionist James Dewees (Coalesce, The Get Up Kids) bolstering the core lineup, MCR spent the first half of their hour-long set playing songs from their latest LP, Danger Days. Among them was the new-wave techno rocker "Planetary (GO!)," which a fluorescent pink-haired Way introduced by challenging the crowd to a dance contest-and when multi-colored balloons engulfed the stage, it really did feel like you were at futuristic rave instead of a New Jersey rock show.
"We're all kids. Stay a kid, don't be a grown-up because being a grown-up is bullshit," Way preached as a preface to "Teenagers." Then a dirty classic rock riff kicked in and Way -- resembling a goth Peter Pan as he bounded across the stage in tight black jeans and floppy hair -- let the crowd sing the refrain of "teenagers scare the shit out of me!"
Next, guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro broke into the opening lick of "Helena," from 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and Way gave so much of himself in the performance that he collapsed onstage. When the band finally exited it was clear that there would be no encore, not because the crowd didn't ask for it but because MCR were physically and emotionally drained. They may be in their mid-30s, but onstage they still rock with the abandon and intensity of teenagers, no matter the consequences.