Green Day plays politics for a new generation
It looked more like Disneyland than a concert, but one thing was evident from the turnout at Arco Arena last Friday—Green Day is the biggest rock band in the world.
The scene was bizarre to say the least. Parents shoved earplugs into their kids’ heads before leading them down the stairs to a floor packed full of 20-somethings and pimply faced teens. Yes, rock ‘n’ roll is now a family affair for Green Day, but that doesn’t mean it was any less fun.
The production rivaled a KISS show circa 1977—complete with bombs, flames and plenty of well-timed clap-a-longs and chants. And for two hours, the sold-out crowd of 16,000 was putty in the hands of Billie Joe Armstrong, who appears to be relishing his status of 5-foot-7-inch rock god.
Oh yeah, there was music, too. Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, drummer Trà Cool (along with an extra guitarist, a keyboard player and a horn section) played songs from their latest politically fueled platter American Idiot while shoving a good number of classics in the mix.
“This next song is a big ‘fuck you’ to George W. Bush,” Armstrong hollered before going into “Holiday.”
Throughout the night, Armstrong made his opinions of the current administration and even California’s governor crystal clear, which either confused or swayed the future voters in the audience. Thankfully there were songs like “Longview” and “Brain Stew,” to veer the set from heady political topics to real issues like masturbating and taking cross-tops.
The show was a far cry from the days at 924 Gilman Street, the club where the band began making its name with albums such as 39/Smooth and Kerplunk for Berkeley independent label Lookout! Records. So how has Green Day been able to stick around for 17 years? The band never got sucked into the over-allegiant punk rock-lifestyle and simply stuck to what worked—writing simple rock songs with hooks.
The band alienated the punk rock fringe early on when it signed with Reprise Records in 1993. The band released its major-label debut Dookie the next year and the album went on to sell a gazillion records (10 million to be exact), making them arguably the most popular act around. From there the band released a handful of records including 1995’s stellar Insomniac and Warning in 2000, but never came close to the bloated sales of Dookie.
After a four-year hiatus, Green Day released American Idiot in September 2004, the band’s only album to debut at number one on the Billboard charts. The record took a more serious turn lyrically, while the songs seemed ready-made for the arena.
And that’s where Green Day has taken it.
Last week’s show was rock ‘n’ roll in all its flamboyant glory. Longer epics like “Jesus of Suburbia” were off-set with classics like “2000 Light Years Away” and “Hitching a Ride,” while “Wake Me Up When September Ends” was inserted predictably when the night called for lighters and cell phones.
A lucky 17-year-old from Chico was one of three kids yanked from the audience and handed instruments for a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” And when the band played through The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” and Queen’s “We are the Champions,” neither song seemed a bit out of place from the rest of the set—one more reason why if good things are going to happen to a band, it should be Green Day.