Photo by Sayre Berman
Tuesday, August 4
American Airlines Arena
Better Than: A show by any other pop-punk outfit playing today.
Green Day still rules, despite the fact they're all grown up. Sure, in their early days, the snotty punks from the Bay Area shared concert bills with Operation Ivy and sang about masturbation, low motivation, and whores. But those were the days of the first three albums, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, Kerplunk!, and Dookie. These days, Green Day is all about politically charged rock operas tracing Bush-era consequences, crushed dreams, and working-class heroes on 2004's American Idiot and now, 21st Century Breakdown.
But in Green Day's case, maturity doesn't come at the expense of sex and fart jokes and stories about getting stoned. Last night at the American Airlines Arena, frontman/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool ensured fun remained the focus. Props included Super Soakers, toilet-paper blowers (for which I have to give Less Than Jake credit since I saw them do this years and years ago), T-shirt guns/cannon that shot way up into the rafters, and episodes of cross-dressing.
Green Day opened the night with "21st Century Breakdown," the title track to this latest album. The song introduced the crowd of tweens, teens, and nearly-over-the-hill old-school fans to what would be almost a two-and-a-half-hour set.
In fact, material from 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot dominated the first half of the band's performance. Armstrong parodied an evangelical baptism/born-again ritual on a fan during "East Jesus Nowhere." An industrial, dystopian city set-up dazzled the background during "Holiday" as digitized political statements ran across the buildings. A mosh pit even formed during "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Though, that last part was odd --- "Boulevard" is one of the least pit-worthy songs I've ever heard from the band, that and the rest of the approximately
9000- 15,000-person crowd sang calmly to every somber word of the lighter-friendly mega-hit.
But melancholy be damned. Armstrong especially worked tirelessly to keep the crowd energized with endless variations on "heys," "ohs," and "hey-ohs" and constant shout-outs to Miami. Sure, it bordered on annoying, but the uncompromising musicianship made up for it. Pyrotechnics exploded from the stage throughout the evening. And per the band's m.o., fans were invited on stage to play, sing, and receive hugs.
The second half of the set included a slew of singles from Dookie ("Welcome to Paradise," "She," "Basket Case," "Longview"), one off underground favorite Kerplunk! ("2000 Light Years Away") as well as other songs off Warning, Nimrod and Insomniac. These transitioned to a strange medley mash-up of covers of Black Sabbath, The Doors, The Kinks, and Tom Petty, though each rendition lasted only a few seconds.
The high school graduation staple "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" closed the night, which proved to be kind of a downer. Ending with something more animated like "American Idiot," which preceded "Good Riddance" during the encore, seemed more appropriate in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the show. In fact, when Armstrong left the stage, the arena was deafeningly silent compared to the overwhelming hooting and hollering the band received throughout the evening. The song seemingly sucked out the energy of the previous two hours, though he played the song well. The sudden change of pace was just way too jarring.
Nonetheless, Armstrong's engagement with fans, no matter how annoyingly repetitive it could be, was touchingly sincere. The scope of the show was clearly an homage to these fans for their support over the band's amazing 20-year career. And while it's ironic singing about alienation to an arena filled with adoring fans, Green Day proved that the goofiness of adolescence can still be relevant when you're pushing 40. It also doesn't hurt that none of them has started balding.
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Personal Bias: I love Green Day.
Random Detail: The teenager who got onstage to play "Jesus of Suburbia" seemed really cocky and apparently pissed off Armstrong, as the frontman pretty much kicked him off stage. I've seen Green Day four times, and I've never seen them fail to give away a guitar to the kid who played.
By The Way: Green Day played "Brain Stew" and then "Jaded," like they're supposed to. (For those of you who don't own Insomniac, sometimes the radio or MTV will just play "Brain Stew." But on the album, there is no pause, making them more or less one song.) Also, check out Green Day's Miami soundcheck here.