Nobody likes you when you’re 23. But everyone likes you when you’re 44 — if you’re blink-182.
On Saturday, X Games fans got battered by rain, evacuated from Circuit of the Americas, disappointed by postponed skate events and soiled by shoe-slaying mud. But they wouldn’t leave until they wanted, and it was all worth it to pay tribute to pop punk’s princes of puerility.
The hits of blink-182 — Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, taking up the absent Tom DeLonge’s watch over guitar and nasal whining — probably already play in your head when someone says “X Games.” Moreso than Nicki Minaj, one of last year’s headliners, at least. The perfect confluence of artist and event tethered crowds all night to the concrete wasteland in Elroy, especially once organizers sweetened the pot with a quick pre-show, pop-up performance by the band next to the Big Air ramp.
Blink-182 is forever trapped in pure, earnest, adolescent id, like a black-clad mosquito swimming in amber the color of Monster energy drink. So, sure: At an event dedicated to making the teenage pursuit of thrills a spectator sport, crank the perma-summer harmony of “Feeling This” with some cool dads, and fill an amphitheater with the unprintable lyrics of “Family Reunion.” (Google it, mom. Or don’t.)
New songs like “Bored To Death” and gigs like Saturday’s are predictably marked by contrast between ages (again, Hoppus is 44) and lyrics, which alternate between being sophomoric and reflective about the passage of time. Sometimes both, as any blink-fan knows! Like on “What’s My Age Again?” or any number of hits that bemoan growing up and yearn to make things last forever. In the set’s early songs, blink-182 seemed a little less bratty than usual, and Skiba’s delivery was just a hair indistinct — would our heroes betray their sophomoric duty? No. The band broke through the mild sobriety by, of all songs, “I Miss You.” Skiba’s sneering “the voice inside myyyhheeeeeaaad” wore DeLonge’s persona like a second skin, as was required, and it was off to the (extreme) races.
In a set peppered with signature joke songs like “Happy Holidays You Bastard” and “Built This Pool,” Hoppus also found time to bemoan the state of his underwear, which he hypothesized looked like they’d been used to wash a car tire. Other hallmarks of arrested development, like angst and infatuation, got their time to shine on “Stay Together For the Kids” and “Josie,” respectively. The familiar chords that built a genre raised pulses; Barker’s perpetual-motion drum fills showed why there wouldn’t really be a blink-182 without him.
An encore of “All the Small Things” incited screams. But the aforementioned “Bored To Death,” off upcoming album “California,” served as a thesis for the evening, encompassing both blink-182’s hellraiser past (“Life is too short to last long”) and its elder statesman present (“It’s a long way back from seventeen”). If you’d done any walking around the X Games over the weekend, you would have seen blink-182 shirts galore, as well as any number of people still styled like “Enema of the State”-era groupies. What constitutes growing up, the band’s very existence suggests, is entirely subjective.
You could have taken blink-182’s magnum (heh) opus at face value, with snickers and fist flails. Or, if perhaps you’ve internalized their more philosophical musings as lodestars through early adulthood, you could have taken the evening, and show closer “Dammit” in particular, as scatological tea leaves. Everybody’s gone, and we’ve all been here too long to face this on our own.
Well, I guess this is … you know.