SAYREVILLE, NJ—When asked the question, “What do you like to do for fun?” the answer is always concrete and simple: Go to shows. In my opinion, there is nothing like the experience of a concert—the energy, raw talent, and feeling of a sore neck in the morning from jamming. Having been to many shows and venues in my time, Starland Ballroom has always been on the top of my list.
On that devastating day last October when Superstorm Sandy ripped through our precious state, I had a hard time comprehending that the venue was forced to close. However, knowing the people on staff and in the business, I had high hopes that they would be back, and stronger than ever. Upon the teasing of welcome back show announcements, I knew that there would be one for the books. Then, I heard those precious few words I never thought I’d hear at a venue of that capacity: Blink-182. As if that wasn’t cool enough, ticket sales also went to charity.
Upon walking into the beautifully redone venue, I watched the line behind me wrap around the building, with young, old, and excitement-filled folks. I immediately was taken back to my youth, begging my mom to take me to see Blink. They are one of those bands in which you tend to forget how many hits they actually have until you hear them all at once. Needless to say, I was ready to throw down.
California’s New Beat Fund opened up the show, getting the crowd excited. Once 8:58 p.m. came, the title wave of fans started emerging toward the stage. Phones were out, horns were up, and “We want Blink!” chants were roaring. At 9:00 sharp, Travis Barker, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus got on stage, kicking off with a personal favorite, “Feeling This.” They came out hard, and I knew this was going to be an amazing night.
There was more energy in that room than a power plant. After “Feeling This,” they played a newer song, “Up All Night,” followed by the hit single “The Rock Show,” where Barker, fittingly enough, took off that shirt that made the ladies swoon. “What’s My Age Again?” and “Down” followed shortly thereafter. Of course, I cannot forget to mention the incomparable drum solos by Barker, which literally will glue your eyes to the stage, no matter what else on earth is going on at that very moment. In my eyes, he is at the top of the game, and always will be.
The setlist was perfect, compacted with old and new blends of hits and favorites. They took the time to address the crowd, but not for more than a minute between, for they wanted to keep playing music. “I am going to give it everything I have tonight,” said Hoppus. He stuck to his word, and the crowd ate up every lyric. After playing roughly 18 songs, they yelled, “Okay this is the part where we are going to pretend to leave now,” and then came back for their perfect fitting encore of “Carousel” and “Dammit.”
As they sang that last note and the horns stayed up in the air, I could see the smiles, sweat, and satisfaction on every face in that room. I couldn’t help but overhear people in the parking lot, stating how grateful they were to have been in that venue, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the chance to see them there, for I thought the days of Blink playing at a place where I could actually see them were long gone.
I think it’s safe to say that the Starland Ballroom is back and better than ever. Jon Vena, marketing manager of AEG Live and Starland, commented on the show, stating, “Not only did we get to re-launch Starland this week, but we got to do so with superstar bands like Stone Temple Pilots and now, Blink-182. Tonight was easily one of the biggest nights in Starland Ballroom history.” With a permanent smile on my face, I left my youth inside that room, with complete contentment that Mark, Tom and Travis still sound as good as they did in the ‘90s. As the boys would say, “I guess this is growing up.”