Wednesday 8th February
O2 Arena, London
You would be forgiven for thinking of Green Day as a bunch of young aggressive upstarts writing anarchic teenage angst songs about a world that they don’t yet understand. Truth is, Green Day have been around for over 30 years now with an impressive catalogue of albums and hits. It would be better to describe them as a bunch of aggressive upstarts writing anarchic angst songs about a world that they do fully understand.
Their latest album, 'Revolution Radio', saw the Oakland/Berkley CA trio (all six of them…..) hit the stage at London’s O2 arena to a packed out audience on the latest leg of their world tour. And true to their lengthy legacy, the crowd was a pleasant mix of teenagers’ and their parents, both equally justified at seeing ‘their’ band, both equally excited. Many bands share fans across the generations - AC/DC and Alice Cooper are good examples - but not many create this sort of fervour as to which generation owns and loves them more. Supporting them were the appropriately named Interrupters, a punk/Ska band from Los Angeles who warmed the audience nicely with their lively set, reminiscent of the 80’s Ska bands like The Beat and The Specials, but with a modern punky irreverence showing hints of bands like Zebrahead. Audience participation was enjoyed by both band and fans setting the scene for a boisterous night.
Most bands like to make an entrance to some atmospheric music to build the crowd and set the scene for the set to come. Green day typically had three. Starting with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to loosen the crowds vocally - is there any better song? - The Ramones 'Blitzkrieg Bop' got the moshers moshing and then the expectation levels, already high, were sent stratospheric by Ennio Moricone’s classic soundtrack from 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly'. Nice work boys. Now Punk bands are all about the attitude. They don’t know how to play their instruments, nor do they care. They have something to say and want to say it loud. Most grow old disgracefully and then discover that making adverts for butter is what matters and lose all their credibility. How can you have a responsible adult decrying the establishment when secretly they are an M&S card holder. Well Billie Joe, Mike and Tre do it and do it with all the conviction, venom and visceral attitude that younger Punk bands often fail to create.
All the anger, the passion and the drive is there - this could be their first gig. Opening with 'Know Your Enemy', Green Day unleashed their sound on an audience that were revved up and ready to go. And go they did. Billie Joe is all about the crowd, constantly exhorting them to stand up, jump around, wave their arms, scream or just generally go crazy. Fairly common stuff you might say but you rarely see Dad’s out bopping their teenage daughters. And rarely do you ever see no-one giving a toss about it either. The set was a lengthy one - two and a half hours including the encore, which all went with lightning speed. The set was sprinkled with a good mix of hits from albums past as well as the new material. 'Revolution Radio’s title track was a big hit with the audience. It’s great to see the new material being acclaimed as highly as the classics by the adoring crowd. So many new album tracks are politely applauded, rather than maniacally lauded. It must warm the bands hearts to know that their current music is as relevant as their hits of 20 years ago. These boys aren’t living off of their past, that’s for sure.
Favourite’s like 'Holiday' really got the crowd jumping – even in the seats which is dangerous in the acutely angled nose bleeds that are the cheap seats. But that’s what Punk is about - bugger the establishment and prepare my ambulance.
For three fella’s who have played a bit, they were as tight as you would expect. Tre Cool sitting behind his drum kit, with the occasional forays onto the stage proper, including his vocals for the opening of 'Shout', played the role of teen idol to perfection whilst still managing to do a bit of quality drumming. Many a teenage girl was carried out in a state of swoon. Or drunk - it’s hard to tell these days. Mike Dirnt defies the dull methodical bass player stereotype by battering out some murderous bass riffs in a proper "fuck you" stance whilst looking like a Rock God. The swooning levels went up another notch. And Billie Joe Armstrong, the iconic front man jumped, strutted, skipped, and skittered around the stage like an angry 6th former who just got expelled for smoking, again. He worked the crowd all night. “Tonight is about freedom, man” he yells as he vents his anger at all the wrongs in the world. A self-confessed champion and founder member of all the freaks, the audience were all convinced he is still that angry young teenager. A great musician, he battered his much loved childhood guitar, bought for him by his mum when he was just 10. And played at every Green Day gig since too. He even added a little mouth organ melody to 'Scattered'.
But it is as a crowd pleaser that he excels. As well as the sing-alongs and chanting, he invited members of the crowd onstage to participate with differing levels of success. From the clearly star-struck teenage girl who was too mesmerised by the audience to sing, to the little girl Rachel who was invited up to play guitar with Billie Joe, She was rewarded with being given the guitar for her troubles – nice touch Mr A. But gold medal goes to the Superman t-shirt wearing teenage fella who was invited to come up on stage and sing 'Longview'. No shy retiring fella this one, he owned the stage, sang some pretty decent lyrics and then rejoined the crowd with a stage dive that justified his choice of t-shirt. Well done mate – you really entertained the crowds.
The evening went on with hit after hit. Quietly but expertly supporting in the background were the three unknown members – Jason White, Jeff Matika and Jason Freese - playing guitar keyboards and saxophone. The latter showed his true versatility with a medley of assorted hits starting with a well-received rendition of George Michael’s 'Careless Whisper', that was enthusiastically received with a slight melancholy joy. "That’s not f’ing Punk" bemoans my mate. No, it aint, but then Green Day aren’t just Punk. They are great entertainers, anarchic punks, romantic balladeers - they have it all. Which probably explains their wide appeal. I felt it was fitting that the gig that started with such an angry and excitable opening, should finish with a couple of thoughtful numbers with just Billie Joe on an acoustic. Great sounds, great singing, great night. Can’t wait to see them again at Hyde Park in July.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Know Your Enemy
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
2000 Light Years Away
Hitchin' A Ride
When I Come Around
Are We the Waiting
Knowledge (Operation Ivy cover)
Do You Wanna Dance (The Beach Boys cover)
King For A Day (w/ 'Careless Whisper' saxophone solo )
Shout/Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life/Teenage Kicks/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/Hey Jude
Jesus of Suburbia
Ordinary World - Acoustic
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) - Acoustic