Hella Mega Tour and Houston Celebrate the Return of Stadium Shows

Green Day
Green Day Photo by Eric Sauseda
Hella Mega Tour
Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, The Interrupters
Minute Maid Park
July 29, 2021

Some time back, Green Day released a song called “Longview,” and despite its name it could not have foreseen a global pandemic nearly 30 years in the future. When the band summoned it during last night’s Houston stop of the long-awaited Hella Mega Tour at Minute Maid Park, it sounded less like an MTV classic than a flashback to merely a year ago when we were all stir crazy in lockdown. As the timeworn meme goes, when Billie Joe Armstrong sang “Twiddle my thumbs just for a bit, I'm sick of all the same old shit, in a house with unlocked doors,” we felt that.

This is a review of a stadium concert and though it’s been a while since you’ve read one maybe, you’ll recall the premise is to learn what music was performed by the musicians and how that music was received by the audience. In this case, the former being tour mates Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and The Interrupters and the latter being a capacity crowd of concert-starved, highly appreciative, slightly nervous live music fans who possibly (hopefully) escaped quarantine's unlocked doors to cautiously return to an awaiting world before masturbation “lost its fun.”

As much as the night belonged to the performers onstage, it also belonged to the crowd which came to hail them. So, we listened to the bands tell us how they felt playing once more to the adoring throngs and we asked the throngs how they felt being shoulder to shoulder, maskless (we spotted not one in the crowd from our floor seats) and singing their lungs out to more hits than Minute Maid’s home team puts up during a hot streak.

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Fall Out Boy brought the heat
Photo by Eric Sauseda

The music began at 5:29 p.m. with a little double irony. A tour previously interrupted by COVID-19 concerns kicked off with The Interrupters. They took the stage to the further irony of The Specials’ “Ghost Town.” It wafted over an actual live audience, one which would grow to the rafters by the end of the night, replacing the specter of an arena once emptied by the pandemic. They bound onto the centerfield stage to their opener, “A Friend Like Me” and got the general admission attendees — who began lining up before 10 a.m. on show day to get a good spot at the foot of the stage — moving to their infectious, upbeat tunes.

They seemed entirely up to the task of starting a much-anticipated night’s music, with anthems like “Take Back the Power,” their breakthrough hit “She’s Kerosene” and a trombone-heavy take on Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” Front woman Aimee Allen’s laid-back presence alone helped relax the crowd. She sported a GBH T-shirt, black Chucks and white framed sunglasses, even though the retractable roof shielded the sun. She sang the entire set with chewing gum in her mouth, the ultimate in cool.

“How beautiful is it to have live music back in Houston, Texas right now?” she asked.

A few seats over, Beatrice and Corinne from College Station answered the question. Beatrice said Corinne invited her to the show. She was excited for Fall Out Boy and Corinne was amped for Green Day.

“Yeah, it’s super fun, everybody is just doing their own thing and it’s good to be out with people again, you know, and be able to mingle with others and see what’s really going on in the world,” said Beatrice.

“So yeah, this is our first big event in a while but we feel pretty safe about it, we’ve both been fully vaccinated,” Corinne added. “Especially with the concert scene being gone for like a year, it’s nice to finally be back.”

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Photo by Eric Sauseda

Weezer was up next and front man Rivers Cuomo boasted a new guitar, a new hairdo and a couple of new songs for the event. “The End of the Game,” and especially “All My Favorite Songs” felt right at home in the band’s catalog among hits like “Hash Pipe,” “Beverly Hills,” “My Name is Jonas,” “Island in the Sun,” and set closer “Buddy Holly.” Showing a little rust, perhaps, Cuomo flubbed the opening lines to “Say It Ain’t So,” one of Weezer’s best-loved songs.

“How could you fuck that up, Rivers? I am impressed!” he laughed it off. He kept his comments on our COVID recovery brief but they came through clearly.

“It’s so good to be back amongst fellow humans. Savor every moment,” he said.

In the field boxes, we met Sinuhe. It was his second time seeing Weezer and Green Day. The last show he attended before last night’s was a January 2020 concert at White Oak Music Hall. He said he’s missed the way music brings people of all walks together.

“A lot of these (bands) have so many fans that span from a lot of ages, people that are older, in their 50s, down to people that are teenagers. It’s cool to see that nowadays, where we can see a range of different people showing up to the shows and everybody knowing the songs and really feeding off that energy,” he said. “I’ll say when I walked into the show, I’ve never heard that many people sing ‘Say, It Ain’t So,’ and I’ve never heard that many people sing the last two songs they played. It was amazing. I would say that’s probably the coolest thing about this show tonight, the amount of people that know those songs by heart and they’ll replicate that energy all together.”

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The crowd was as much of the story as the bands last night
Photo by Eric Sauseda

Like Cuomo, Sinuhe felt we should savor the moment.

“I’m really grateful to be here today because I thought it would be a longer time,” he said. “I was expecting two or three years, maybe five years ‘til we could have a show like this tonight. I was expecting really small local shows here and there but not something like tonight.

"To be honest, I don’t even remember that we’re still in the process of coming over an epidemic, to see how people are acting ourselves. It’s been a while now and to feel like we’re going to something like normality brings joy that I haven’t felt, honestly, in months,” he continued. “This is my thing, being at a show like this. I could see whoever but the fact that these three bands are here tonight makes it so much more special.”

Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz agreed. Partway through the band’s spirited set, he confessed to the crowd he’d wonder whether they’d ever get to play live shows again and he thanked the audience for its patience and for coming to the concert.

For their patience, fans of the band got stellar versions of the group’s greatest hits, from show opener “The Phoenix” to “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” “Uma Thurman,” “Dance, Dance” and “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” which may have been the highlight song of the set. Vocalist Patrick Stump sounds as pristine as when the band broke (can it really be?) 20 years ago and Wentz played band spokesman when he wasn’t throwing flames from his specially outfitted bass guitar.

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Wentz (foreground) and Stump were in mid-2000s form last night
Photo by Eric Sauseda

“I’m here mostly for Green Day, my wife got the tickets . I’ve never seen them before live,” said Jeremy, an audience member who was sporting a Lone Pint Brewery T-shirt, which is at least part of the reason we chose to chat with him. Great beers.

“We bought these tickets close to two years ago. We’re excited. I think it’s a little strange because we’re having an (COVID) uptick right now. I guess with the media you see so much about maskless crowds and of course we’re all here with no masks on but you know, at the same time, that’s why I, that’s why my family, we all got vaccinated," he said. "You know, we’re excited.”

Green Day was excited too. The kinship with fans they’ve cultivated over nearly (can it really be?) 35 years grew last night with an energetic show punctuated by Armstrong’s frequent proclamations of “That’s how we do it in Texas, baby!” At the tour opener in Arlington last weekend, Armstrong was overt about the pandemic’s effects.

“Take a look around you,” he said last weekend. “This is human contact. We cannot be locked up anymore. We need to be together.”

Last night, his message was more nuanced. The crowd had been prepped with sing-alongs to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” (yes, the entire song) and “Blitzkrieg Bop,” before the headliners pounced with a searing rendition of “American Idiot.” After the opener, Armstrong simply advocated for fans to put down their phones, dance and enjoy being together again. Then, they ripped through a 20-song set, sounding as tight as if this was the end of a tour and not its start. From “Holiday” to “Welcome to Paradise,” and “Basket Case,” there was plenty to dance to and headbangers got “Brain Stew” and a cover of KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Nite.” The set took softer turns with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and show closer “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”

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Is this the world's greatest rock band? It was last night
Photo by Eric Sauseda

"Can you feel it?" Armstrong asked the crowd near the night's end. "We're still breathing. We fucking need each other."

They weren't hollow words. The band proved it by bringing fans on stage, one for a stage dive and another to play guitar alongside Armstrong. Shout out to Mauricio, who did Houston proud by playing nicely to the cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” He roamed the stage as if he too was in Green Day and for his moxie (that's how we do it in Houston, baby!) the band gifted him a guitar.

When it was all said and done, sure, Hella Mega Tour was just another summer stadium show, the kind longtime music lovers have long enjoyed. But there was no denying how special something so ordinary felt. The bands felt and spoke of it and so did the audience members we met. It was a helluva wait, but we finally had the chance to bite our lips, close our eyes and be taken away to paradise.

Personal Bias: “She’s Kerosene,” “Pork and Beans,” “This Ain’t a Scene,..” and “Brain Stew.”

Overheard in the Crowd:
 Mrs. Sendejas sat this one out. It seems she’s still readying her concert legs for the many shows we hope to soon see together. Last night, my daughter, Marissa, joined me. She's now old enough to have her own fall out boys and girls. All the things "overheard in the crowd" last night were courtesy of her, including:

“All of these half-stacks are the spectacle. They're not functional,” she said of a literal pile of amps lined up for Weezer’s set.

“This song is really hard on Guitar Hero,” she said of “My Name is Jonas.”

“I’m only singing out of irony,” she muttered, having been caught singing to Weezer’s cover of “Africa,” which she’d just rolled her eyes at moments after it started.

Random Notebook Dump: You probably haven't missed reading these as much as I've missed writing them but I sure hope I soon get to write a lot more and you get to read as many as you choose. Be safe, friends, and let's do what we can to see after each other.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.