Here’s a guest review of Friday’s Green Day concert from my buddy EB:
Borrowing a friend’s New Year’s resolution, I vowed to see more live music in 2005.
The road since then has veered off into four directions: high and glorious (Langerado festival, March), locally stimulating (Hagus Maggagus, April; Crazy Fingers, Thursdays), comfortably routine (Trey Anastasio, August) and downright weird (Liz Phair, October. Don’t ask).
Phish had different song placements, every show. Antics a little different from the previous night, every show. Fans who got there early and were never in any rush to go home. And fans who would never, ever wave their cellphones to and fro’ during a mellow song.
I went into Friday’s Green Day show with low expectations, but enough anticipation that I Googled the band a few days before to see how the current tour was going. (A little background: Green Day is one of two bands I have ever obsessed about, and the last time I saw ’em was May 1998, during the Nimrod tour.)
I found some video and some fan descriptions of shows on the U.K. leg of the tour in July. And it was almost as stupid as when I read a blogger’s review of the Six Feet Under finale before I watched the show.
To my friend Hector’s annoyance, I predicted every song they played and every funnyman-on-speed antic from frontman Billie Joe Armstrong a minute before they happened. From the opening first three songs off current album American Idiot, to the singalong couplets Brainstew > Jaded and Basket Case > She, to the closing covers of The Isley Brothers’ Shout and Queen’s We Are the Champions, I knew what was coming.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a good time. Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool — plus a small supporting cast of guys playing keys, horns and guitar — played two hours of energized rock. Call it punk, call it pop, call it what you will: This was rock to the fullest.
And nobody can ever accuse this band of not appreciating their fans: Billie Joe, in a nod to Hurricane Katrina, thanked the audience again and again for making it to the show. “I know you had a rough night last night,” he said. Still, Hector and I agreed Katrina seemed to have taken her toll on the crowd: Many fans were quick to stop following along to Billie Joe’s repeated “Heeeeeyy-ooooohhhh” chants.
My personal highlight was when the band paused its cover of Operation Ivy’s Knowledge and enlisted three audience members to take over the instruments. They went through two talentless drummers before finding one kid who picked up the beat with ease. The chubby, bespectacled kid they picked for bassist also nailed the three-note riff.
With thousands of eager guitarists raising their hands, Billie Joe asked one how old he was: 11. “How long have you played guitar? Three years? Get him up here.” The kid, red wristband and all, really was pre-Bar Mitzvah and by far the worst of the trio. He stumbled through the chords, but the crowd screamed for him no less. A minute later, the song was over, and Billie Joe told him to keep the guitar, then Billie Joe made the bassist exit with a stage dive.
That said, none of it surprised me. I knew it was going to happen.
But premeditated setlists and young fans aside, something grand must be said for a band that, 16 years deep into its career, can record a complete album with depth and flow and can play every night with the fervor of careless 17-year-olds.
Plus, there were a couple of Phish-like momentsfor me to lap up. I recall two full-fledged start-stop jams (during Hitchin’ a Ride and Minority), and I most definitely saw a lone glowstick fly from the balcony toward the end of Longview, though the glowstick was not re-thrown.
Green Day, like MTV — the show’s promoter, according to my ticket stub — has made a career out of entertaining teens. But unlike the television channel, which remains a guilt- and shame-inducing pleasure for many 20-somethings, Green Day still has something ageless to offer.
The guys are entertainers, in the studio and on stage. I’ll probably still be thinking about the show all week. And even though I won’t be watching them on the MTV Music Video Awards this evening, I hope they win.