There’s an increasing trend for pre-festival ‘warm-up’ gigs: the theory is that this lets the band try out new material, try out different set-lists and well, warm-up. A cynic might also point out that if a band is going to lug tons of gear, and tens of crew, across the world then, hey, charge for the rehearsal! May as well make a little extra cash while we’re in town. And Blink 182 will certainly have done that with their Reading & Leeds warm-up gig last night. Tickets were 40 quid, and they sold out the Brixton Academy in minutes. They then added a second date (wow, you’re gonna be sooo warmed up guys) which also sold out.
There was a real buzz in and around the Academy last night. The pubs nearby were even fuller than their standard pre-gig crush, the touts were more numerous (and desperate) than normal, the queue for the famous Nando’s stretched to the roadside and when walking into the standing area, the crush began immediately after the door, rather than being gathered by the stage.
It’s often said that the sound at Brixton is not the best. The venue doesn’t have an in-house PA: band have to hire in (generally the case with venues of that size and up). If they hire locally, crappy sound can ensue. But Blink 182? On the road to Reading? Surely they brought their own kit? Certainly whatever was being used – and there was plenty of it – was either bought on eBay or just poorly set up.
Support band Prides did a reasonable job, but most unfamiliar listeners probably thought their driving, powerful sound was far too murky and indistinct. It wasn’t until Blink 182 came on that it became clear – it was the PA, not the acts. Blinks’ crisp, sun-drenched Californian guitar sound was often lost in the mix, and the vocals were buried completely at times. But for a band with the 182’s experience, with hundreds of people determined to have a good time, it’s never a huge problem. After all, we weren’t straining to hear the words to delicate and subtle acoustic-backed love songs. And we all know the words to ‘Family Reunion’.
The set list – presumably the one they intend to deploy at Reading & Leeds – was not full of surprises. After all, they’ve not brought out a new album for over 3 years. In fact, anyone at Reading later this month who was also at Reading in 2010 will feel very much at home. Not a problem for the true fans though: all the favourites were there. ‘What’s My Age Again’ (and what a fitting sentiment that was for this band and this crowd) near the start and ‘All the Small Things’ near the end: just how we like it. And they squeezed in a well-received cover of the Misfits’ ‘Hybrid Moments’. There were a few slower moments – ‘Down’ might even have been moving if Mark Hoppus hadn’t been repeatedly blocking Tom DeLonge while he sang, like a big bored toddler, and ‘Ghost on the Dancefloor’ was moving – but mostly it was hard rocking, pounding pop-punk all the way. All liberally sprinked with the puerile, scatological banter that we’d come for.
As the band warmed up, so did the venue. It’s often warm in the Academy, but not usually as sweltering as last night. The dozens of people hurling themselves into the mosh were literally drenched, and one shaggy-haired reveller actually shook himself like a dog, to the disgust of those nearby.
For the grand finale? During the encore a huge, flaming ‘FUCK’ appeared above the band, gaining delighted cheers from the happy, sweating, exhausted crowd. Not particularly clever, not incredibly funny, but absolutely perfectly fitting.