Blink-182/A Day to Remember/All Time Low - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Blink-182 / A Day to Remember / All Time Low

Live in Grand Rapids (2016)

live show

First came the begging. Next came the bargaining. Finally the guilt started to set in. That’s how I found myself at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday, August 31st. I was there to watch three popular bands, none of which I was particularly interested in. Fifteen year old Alex Trauma really wanted to go to this show. Work obligations kept me from being able to take her to Warped Tour (I dodged that bullet), so this was my peace offering. I’d actually seen all of these groups before. All Time Low is Alex’s favorite band, and we saw them headline a smaller arena last fall. I caught a bit of A Day To Remember’s Riot Fest Chicago set a couple of years ago. I saw Blink-182 for the first time at Warped Tour 20 or so years ago and I also saw them headline Riot Fest Chicago fairly recently.

I bought the cheapest tickets I could get, one day in advance. We sat off to the side in the nosebleeds. Not only towards the back, but in THE TOP ROW. We could see fine, but the sharp angle down was almost dizzying. DJ Spider was there spinning tunes so that we didn’t have to wait for the bands to start to hear some crappy music. He did play some cool stuff too, but that doesn’t make up for the Backstreet Boys.

I’ve already given All Time Low quite a bit of digital ink, so I don’t want to rehash too much. They came on just after 7:00 pm and played 40 minutes of their bland, punky, danceable rock and roll. They frequently played along to a pre-recorded track. The additional touring guitarist seemed to do a lot of the musical heavy lifting. They did a lot of cursing and pandering to the audience. They played an acoustic song. The bass player’s muscles were so large that we could see them from our seats without the big screens. I am not in All Time Low’s demographic. I couldn’t see anyone in our (large) section who I thought was as old as me. Alex danced and squealed with delight the whole time. They just weren’t for me.

It turns out that A Day To Remember is even less for me. They did have a cool stereo themed stage setup, but that’s where my appreciation ended. Their intro music was from 2001 Space Odyssey, probably to let us know how epic they were going to be. They stormed the stage and hit the audience right away with power and fury of . . . giant beach balls? (Later they threw what appeared to be rolls of toilet paper into the crowd.) Their music was lazy metal riffs with lots of double bass drum. They also at least occasionally played along to a pre-recorded track. The singing went from pretty wimpy to a little bit guttural. They also managed to squeeze an acoustic song into their 45 minutes. What bothered me most was that they postured like they were playing the most intense music ever. I even heard someone near me use the word hardcore to describe them. (I threw up in my mouth a little bit.) I guess this is Agnostic Front for the milk and cookies crowd. Once again Alex loved it. No thanks.

When I said that I’d seen Blink-182 twice before, I was technically being honest. I was also intentionally a little light on the details. When I saw them at Warped in the 90’s, I watched them for a few minutes and then went to look for something more interesting. When I saw them a more recently, I watched them for a few minutes and then bolted for some of Chicago’s fine bars. I’d never actually stayed for a full set and was determined to finally give them a fair chance.

You might also be surprised to know that I’m an Alkaline Trio fan. I like Matt Skiba and have no problem with him taking this gig or getting a better paycheck. I also consider him an upgrade from Tom DeLonge on guitar as well as vocally. Blink-182 has never been known as a great live act, and I was certainly curious if they’d improved. Opening song “Feeling This” proved that Matt and Mark Hoppus were capable of the vocal interplay that the band is known for. They made no attempt to avoid the Tom songs/parts. Matt just handled them. You might miss Tom’s quirky, nasally delivery though. It also proved that they haven't outgrown their sophomoric humor, as there was a giant flaming F*CK sign as the backdrop. (They also played “Family Reunion”.) The images on the screens changed frequently, and they had a pretty cool California flavored stage setup.

While I still wouldn’t consider them a great live band, they do deserve some credit. It was just the three of them up there. No pre-recorded tracks and no extra musicians. Travis Barker is generally considered an excellent drummer. That may be true, but it often seems like he’s guilty of overplaying on these simple pop songs. It’s especially noticeable in a live setting where the drums are too loud in general. Being in an arena certainly didn’t help, and the sound was pretty clunky. (At least in the cheap seats.)

The encore included “All the Small Things” and my favorite song of the night, “Dammit”. I was surprised that I knew probably half the setlist. I caught myself singing along more than once. I must admit that I enjoyed their 75 minute set the most. (I know that’s not really saying much.) A lot of people tell me that Blink-182 got them into punk. I think that’s great, but does that mean I have to forgive them for inspiring all the backwards baseball cap wearing frat boy pop-punk party bands that Alex listens to?