Command of the Audience

The concept is that an artist has control of the emotional reality of their audience. As performance in particular has become more and more removed from live interaction, this concept has moved to represent capturing attention as opposed to emotional evocation. The potential is still there, though we seem to have less opportunity to experience it, and often then it is a sense of mastery of technique or body of work that produces the emotional satisfaction of a show well done.

Last night I and a few thousand other people got handled, somewhat playfully and with full exuberance, by Blink 182, in what was their last performance of their tour of renewal. After four years being either off parenting, playing other gigs or building their other businesses, the three men who seemingly quit at the peak of their popularity and musical development showed that it is possible to get right back on the curve and keep climbing.

Before a less than sold out crowd at Santa Barbara Bowl, underneath a threatening sky, the band exploded through eighty minutes of their catalogue rarely out of control, but far from the polish of the recordings of the familiar tunes. Slightly tweaking each, or suffering Tom Delonge’s fatigued voice, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand every step. Both shaking it up and settling it down, they worked their audience through the rollercoaster of growing up in the last twenty years.

Having seen the band play in 2004, when even the most recent songs were adapted or shifted for performance, this show demonstrated the band’s appetite for moving forward, finding new fun in the familiar and how maturity and resisting growing up can coexist. At one point Delonge told the crowd, while explaining a nonsensical vocalization “I’m making jazz and you don’t even know it”. Delivered in a self mocking humor that, along with a preoccupation with sex, characterizes most of Delonge’s non musical communication, this comment revealed the tension between the popular artist’s need to satisfy the large audience, and stay interesting to themselves.

Judging by the scene at the Bowl, everybody is satisfied with how the men of Blink 182 are managing themselves, and their renewed relationship with each other and their audience.

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