Green Day knows how to build an audience into a frenzy of anticipation, even when it’s not their music that’s doing the building. As with all of their recent gigs, last night’s performance at Hard Rock Live opened with a recording of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” every six minutes, followed by a recording of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” in which the only “performer” on stage was the Drunk Bunny: a dude in a bunny suit, whose presence has made Green Day gigs look like a joke for the past 20 years, turning into a stunner before breaking into collapsing on the ground and being dragged by a stagehand. The energy in the room was that of a bubble expanding to its breaking point. We were, indeed, all excited and ready to go.
These songs represent the twin poles of what Green Day has become, particularly as a live act: part theatrical, arena-rock-powerful, part humble, three-chord Northern California punks. The trio, complemented by three other touring musicians, represented both ends of the spectrum in top form last night, delivering a hit-packed show that earned all the pogoing, pogoing, slam-dancing and crowdsurfing it deserved.
The band opened with the one-two-three punch of “American Idiot”, “Holiday” and “Know Your Enemy”, setting a high bar that the band still managed to jump throughout the night. The latter included Billie Joe Armstrong’s usual invitation to a fan to sing the last bridge with him; the guest in question was warmly welcomed with a hug and some off-mic words from Armstrong. Later, during the band’s cover of the ska-punk reference “Knowledge” from Operation Ivy, Armstrong brought a 9-year-old boy on stage to play guitar, and he killed him, even nailing the final note jumping off a raised platform with skillful rock. -the gravity of the stars.
The band was as tight as one would expect from a band that has been together for 35 years. Tré Cool’s drumming was technically precise and as thunderous as a thunderstorm. Mike Dirnt’s bass lines could cut through steel, while his walking introduction to “Longview,” like Pavlovian a moment like anything in the Green Day catalog, was a joy to experience. Armstrong’s guitar straddled the interrelated genres of punk, metal and alternative, with the resounding headbanger “Brain Stew” landing with the heaviness of Thor’s hammer.
Could I have done without the superfluous cover of “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss? Sure, especially considering it’s a spot on the set list that could have gone to any number of Green Day originals that would have driven the theater crazy, like “She or “Bang Bang” or “Nice Guys Finish Last” or “The Grouch” or “Warning”. 39/Smooth. The inclusion of “Disappearing Boy,” which Armstrong dedicated to Venus and Serena Williams, was truly surprising.
Armstrong wasn’t much for the crowd banter last night, aside from the obligatory shoutouts to Florida and its southern metropolises, but by limiting the chatter, it just left more time for the songs. The cascade of hits is linked, each performance more grandiose than the previous one. “Minority” sounded like a rooftop noise closer to night, but also “Basket Case”, but also “King For a Day”.
Completed with pyrotechnics, sparks and confetti, the band even left room for a gripping drum solo – a feature that would have been frankly verboten in the era of purist punk – and an absolutely weeping sax solo that cheekily incorporated an excerpt from Wham! “Careless Whisper.” I’ve lost count of how many moments of communal ecstasy this show has inspired. By the time it got closer to “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, Armstrong had effectively purged the song of its original bitter irony and embraced its lyrics with fervor. We certainly had the time of our lives.
LIST OF SETTINGS
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