Tom DeLonge thought Blink-182 had hit the big time five years ago.
"Literally on our last tour, 12,000 was the biggest shows we were doing," says the singer/guitarist, who adds that he was not at all dissatisfied with those numbers. "But it was really an average of 6-to-8,000 people a night. This tour, we're selling 20-to-30,000 tickets within hours, sold out, like crazy ... I have no clue what's going on."
Whatever's happening, DeLonge isn't complaining at all.
"We're so lucky," he says. "It's just like you dream of playing music. You don't ever dream of getting big, and you'll never even contemplate the idea of having it be this big."
For several years, DeLonge wasn't contemplating a world where Blink-182 would ever be part of his life again.
Up until 2004, things had gone very well for the pop-punk trio. The group sold 20 million albums, as albums like Enema of the State (1999), Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001) and Blink-182 (2003) became hits that included popular singles like "What's My Age Again?," "I Miss You," "Feeling This" and "The Rock Show."
But while touring behind the self-titled album, tensions mounted.
DeLonge wanted to spend more time at home with his wife and baby daughter, and that meant turning down a proposed 2005 U.S. tour and being less willing to leave home to work on future albums. DeLonge says bassist/singer Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker thought he was attempting to dictate when the group toured and recorded.
"They thought I was trying to control how and when and whatever," DeLonge says. "But that's not where I was coming from. Now it's like everyone understands that."
That understanding might never have been reached, though, had it not been for a tragedy.
After the Blink breakup, Hoppus and Barker formed a new band, +44, which released one album. DeLonge, meanwhile, started Angels & Airwaves, which has released two albums to date. (DeLonge says a third, as well as a companion movie, will be released in early 2010.)
Things were rolling along smoothly until Sept. 20, 2008, when Barker was seriously injured in a plane crash in Columbia, S.C., that killed four other passengers. Upon hearing the news, DeLonge reached out to Barker, expressing his concern and offering his support, and this started a gradual process of all three Blink-182 members reconnecting.
"Honestly, that was the reason why we got back," says DeLonge, noting that until that point, each of the band members had harbored unresolved issues. "Then the plane crash happened, and all of that was put in perspective, and we all kind of realized how stupid all of it was. We literally got over it in a matter of days."
Now Blink-182 is on tour. Hoppus says fans can expect to hear the hits and experience the usual zaniness from the band.
"One of the charms of Blink in the past is we never used to rehearse what we wanted to do," DeLonge says. "But this time we're really putting in a lot of effort. We're spending a lot of time trying to give them the biggest and most crazy rock show that people want to see. But at the same time, we have a tendency to keep it very impromptu in spirit and unpredictable."