March 5, 2017
Before Green Day take the stage, the PA system blares out two songs while the crowd stands about in nervous anticipation: “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” As a mission statement, it’s so on the nose that it’s almost comical, but it’s not really a surprise either; it’s hard to call a band who named an album Dookie
subtle. All it was really missing was a “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to really tie things together.
With their punk-rock roots and their now-regular attempts to write mini-rock-epics, the two songs are really the only playlist you can put on for a band like Green Day if you’re trying to display the best of their influences. While they’ve never been as majestic as Queen or as gritty as The Ramones, you can’t argue with Green Day’s success: From arenas to Broadway and beyond, the trio may end up going down as one of the last bands that really mattered from this era of rock history.
What secures their legacy night in and night out is their live show. It is the rock and roll
spectacular that lovers of guitar likely miss as the genre they love gets pushed to the margins. A Green Day show is rock music at its best, balancing the political with the irreverent, the serious with the silly, the misanthropy with the celebratory. No, it’s not reinventing the rock and roll rulebook, but the versions of the plays they run from it are among the best you’ll see.
From constant call-and-response chants to bringing people out of the crowd to share the stage with the band to an almost absurd amount of pyro to T-shirt guns to water cannons to silly covers to sillier guitar solos, a Green Day show is familiar without feeling boring or unnecessary.
But that’s the power of a great song, to make you forget about what makes it sound like anything else. Green Day, it almost goes without saying, have
many, many, many great songs. For about two and a half hours, they delighted an energetic crowd with great song after great song, at times digging deep into the back catalog and showing off the best of their new stuff at others. There was almost no dead space or downtime as Billie Joe Armstrong was constantly interacting with the audience, not giving them time to chat among themselves.
The result was a show that felt as if it was always moving forward, even when Billie Joe stopped to introduce the band or encouraged the crowd to sing the coda to “Hey Jude” or got the crowd to sing back yet another variation of “Hey! Ho!” for the umpteenth time. And it felt that way because every time the band burst into a new song, you could watch the faces of the fans explode in recognition and appreciation.
It could be argued that thanks to the arbitrary rules that govern it, Green Day’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came about five to eight years too soon. It seems silly that they went in less than 20 years after the release of Dookie
and it’s absurd that they went in before Cheap Trick, Deep Purple
and Pearl Jam, but not because they don’t deserve it. They have at times been the biggest, most important band in the world, and they didn't do it by playing it safe. History will be kind to them, the way it’s kind to Queen and The Ramones. And who knows, maybe one day 20 years from now, another rock band playing arenas will spin “American Idiot” before they take the stage.
They’ll have their work cut out for them because even if you can write a song as good as a Green Day song, it’s going to take a special band to be as good as they are live
Billie Joe is already getting a leg up to the next generation of rockers.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
: I don’t know if I’m writing about music at 34 if I don’t fall in love with Green Day back when I was 12. That likely sounds overdramatic, and sure, I suppose that if I was born predisposed to loving music, I would have eventually found a band that unlocked that part of my brain, but for me Green Day is foundational. So much of what I love when it comes to music is rooted in the hours I spent listening to Dookie
and so on until the CDs stopped playing in my boombox. My fascination with meaning in music goes back to poring over their lyrics when I was a teen. Green Day helped me become me, for better or worse, and I will always be in debt to them for that.
Really good at singing along and doing call-and-response chants. Good mix of young fans new to the Green Day experience and folks who remember when Jason White wasn’t a thing.
Overheard In the Crowd:
“Man, I’ve seen Korn twice. You wanna talk about a show…” said a slightly inebriated man in front of me heading to his car after the show, his voice full of admiration. Hope that dude discovers Deftones someday.
Random Notebook Dump:
Green Day played nine of their 20 best songs
at this show. Happiest surprise in the set? “Scattered,” which probably should have been one of those 20.
Random Notebook Dump 2: