A tour that would have been a big hit as a frat party circa 2005, the pairing of rap star Lil Wayne and pop-punk hitmakers Blink-182 did not have a good buzz going into its Xcel Energy Center date Thursday.
Discount tickets to the odd-couple twofer were heavily promoted via Groupon. Lil Wayne himself — aka Weezy, aka New Orleans native Dwayne Carter Jr. — was quoted in the press bad-mouthing the tour. Then the rapper failed to show up for a handful of the dates, a bad habit his Twin Cities fans know all too well after three no-shows here in recent years.
Blink-182, meanwhile, is still rebounding from the split with singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge in 2015, which left singer-bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker to carry on with the Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. The trio bounced back, though, with a surprisingly well-received 2016 album, “California.”
The good news Thursday: Lil Wayne did show up, and even relatively on time. The bad news for him and his tourmates, though: Not a whole lot of fans turned out despite the widespread discounts. Xcel Center’s whole upper deck sat unused Thursday, and fans with tickets up there were moved down below.
You couldn’t really blame the low turnout on the rap-rock hybrid idea. Although they seemed like strange bedfellows personality-wise, the musical changeover between the two acts felt pretty natural in the end. For one thing, many of the 6,000 or so fans were of the age (under 35) to already freely bounce between the two genres in their playlists at home.
It maybe also helped that Lil Wayne’s set came off looking and sounding very much like a rock show.
Just as he did for his headlining set at the Soundset festival in May — the one other local gig of late he didn’t weasel out of — Weezy brought a four-piece band with him. Much more than at Soundset, though, Lil Wayne and his bigger entourage sounded downright metallic together, especially at show’s end as pyro plumes shot up from the stage and Weezy’s top-hatted guitarist shredded his way through “A Milli” and “Uproar.”
The band sounded a bit muddy and tentative early on, though, especially during slower tunes such as “Love Me” and the pop-radio baiter “How to Love.” Weezy’s best moments were still just him and his DJ, when his nasally, needling rap flow came through brighter and brattier as he revisited such oldies as “Got Money.”
Blink-182 kicked it old-school, too, using the first half of its 80 minutes to play its “Enema of the State” album in full to mark its 20th anniversary. It was pretty hard to enjoy the nostalgic fix, though, without one of the guys who primarily wrote and sang half the songs. Skiba showed his own dramatic singing prowess later on in “Built This Pool,” but having him sing nothing but old DeLonge songs through the first half felt half-baked.
The impact of playing the album in full was somewhat lost, too, when the band abruptly stopped three songs in to play its new single “I Really Wish I Hated You” for a film crew from ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Apparently the cameramen weren’t big enough fans to wait till later in the show.
Some things about Blink-182 shows never change, though. Barker still tried his best to be the millennial answer to Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, as he strapped his heavily tattooed body and drum kit into a spherical contraption that spun around wildly during his drum solo.
Also unchanged: Hoppus was mighty funny between songs. Like when he introduced a fan who played guitar during “All the Small Things” as “Jake from Green Bay” — and then let Jake suffer through 20 seconds of booing before correcting his address as St. Paul. Given the meager crowd size, those boos were about as loud as the audience got.