March 23, 2015 | by Reed Wolcott

Moving to a new area of the country can be a strange adventure. As a newcomer to Los Angeles, I find myself struggling to keep track of the seemingly endless list of live music venues. When I bought a ticket to see blink-182’s first show with Matt Skiba at The Roxy, I thought it was a large club show and there would be a few thousand people in attendance. When I arrived at The Roxy and saw how tiny the 500-capacity club really was, I was stunned. A truly intimate show from blink-182 is an extreme rarity, and I could hardly contain my excitement.

A Day To Remember opened the show. They hit the stage around 8:30 and tore through 45 minutes of guilty-pleasure-inducing breakdowns, prompting a fairly large portion of the crowd to flail their arms about and pump their fists while singing along. ADTR’s set list primarily consisted of songs from their breakthrough album, Homesick, and their latest record, Common Courtesy. The band seemed to enjoy the intimate setting, even if it was abundantly clear that they’re out of practice in dealing with small crowds – and who can blame them? After the self-released Common Courtesy debuted with over 90,000 sales in its first week, they’ve spent the past several years playing arenas and amphitheaters. Their energy was good, even if their banter was not (sending out the only slow song to “the ladies?” Really?).

After a 30-minute changeover, blink-182 hit the stage and dove right into “Feeling This,” the first track from their 2003 self-titled record. Right off the bat, the band sounded surprisingly well-rehearsed. For any other band, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but this is blink-182. This is the band that recently gave a performance at Reading & Leeds so abysmal that multiple reviewers called it the worst headlining performance in the history of the festival. But at The Roxy, blink-182 sounded polished. Really polished. They sounded like a band that had been playing these songs together for years – not weeks. It wasn’t perfect, as Matt Skiba did struggle with some of Tom DeLonge’s vocal parts. Where he could, Skiba adjusted vocal lines to make up for the difference between his range and DeLonge’s. This was most noticeable on Enema of the State’s “Dumpweed,” where he sang much of the song an octave down. Skiba was especially strong when trading off with Mark Hoppus, giving new life to the choruses of “I Miss You,” and when the two sang in unison it sounded fantastic. Drummer Travis Barker and Hoppus had to pick up some of the slack when it came to stage presence, as Skiba seemed intensely focused on playing the songs correctly. It’s worth noting however, as evidenced by videos from the following show in San Diego, that it seems he’s already making improvements there. Hopefully as time goes on, he’ll continue to get more comfortable with his role in the band and contribute more to banter and on-stage energy.

All night, it was clear that the band was having fun on stage. Toward the beginning of the night, Mark Hoppus introduced Skiba as “your new mom.” This prompted a huge cheer from the crowd, to which Skiba responded with “you make mommy proud.” He also kept pseudo-curtseying between songs throughout the night. It wasn’t clear if that was intentional, but it was certainly entertaining. Other highlights included Mark asking the lightning engineer to turn off the lights for “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” because “we don’t need no fucking lights to play that song, there are only three notes in the entire thing,” and a pair of confetti cannons likely designed for use in a large arena spewing so much confetti into the tiny Roxy that nobody could actually see the band during much of the encore.

Blink played a fairly lengthy set, at 23 songs – 24 if you count the post-encore “Family Reunion.” Most of the set was made up of songs from Enema of the State and blink-182, but fans of Take Off Your Pants And Jacket enjoyed the deep cut of “Reckless Abandon.” The band dove deep into blink-182 as well, playing “Easy Target” and, in the encore, “Violence.” The 2011 full-length Neighborhoods was mostly ignored, and the Dogs Eating Dogs EP was skipped altogether. Though a few more songs from Dude Ranch and Take Off Your Pants And Jacket would have made the night more enjoyable for the older fans in the audience, an unprecedented cover of the Misfits’ classic “Skulls,” and the inclusion of “Man Overboard” and “Carousel” were all pleasant surprises.

Watching blink-182 perform with Skiba felt great. The band clearly worked hard to come back strong after a very nasty public separation from longtime vocalist and guitarist Tom DeLonge. They put on a tight-knit performance on a level previously unheard of for the band and, more importantly, they seemed to really enjoy doing it. Barker’s passion behind the kit serves as a perfect backbone to Hoppus and Skiba, and if this performance at the Roxy is any indication, there will be a lot more to come from blink-182. I can’t wait.

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