When Dookie came out, I was 14 years old, giggling at this ‘masturbation song’ (“Longview”) on MTV with my friends.
In 1998, I graduated high school, and our class song was “Time of Your Life” (I’m sorry but high school is NOT the time of your life).
In 2005, I moved to San Francisco, and Green Day was winding down their world tour for American Idiot, playing The Warfield. I tried to get in and failed.
Green Day has meandered in and out of my life over the years. They are probably the most famous mainstream band that I will admit to listening to. So you can imagine my excitement about scoring tickets to this show- the 2nd surprise show this week– at DNA Lounge. You know that when the number of people outside trying to get tickets seems to outweigh the capacity of the club (about 1000), it’s gonna be special. They sell out stadiums.
After figuring out how to get in, walking past a lot of puppy dog eyes, and getting situated up on the balcony, it was about 9:15. You could physically feel the anticipation rising every 10 minutes, as the awkward DNA stage was prepped. A little puff of smoke, and the crowd hurrahs. Set lists taped down, hurrah. Waters, hurrah. Some excellent and some strange music played as we waited- Joy Division, Loretta Lynn, The Clash. At about 10:30, they descend the stairs.
Expectations are high for a show like this,and it took about a minute to realize that they were going to blow them away. It also took about that long for me to realize that I had totally underestimated Billie Joe Armstrong’s abilities as a front man. Wow. I guess his name always threw me. I would have to put him in the same category as Dave Grohl- totally approachable nice guys who have a fantastic stage presence and no matter how old they get, always remind me of the guys I hung out with when I was 13 or so.
The first hour plus was spent playing the new album, “21st Century Breakdown”, due in May, from “front to back”. It is absolutely a sequel to “American Idiot”- another concept album that picks up right where the other left off. It includes songs that sound and feel exactly like what you would expect from Green Day- pop punk served up two ways: party songs and ballads. In my opinion, when I hear a song that is destined for mainstream success, it sounds vaguely familiar. About 75% of the album is like this. The other 25% is divided into “requires a few more listens to appreciate” and “that is really different and totally awesome”.
I could not take pictures or video, but if I had, this is what I would have focused on:
-8ish year old kid on parent’s shoulders gets lifted on stage by BJA during song 4 or so. Kid stands there pumping devil horned hands in the air. Song ends, BJA looks at him and directs him to crowd surf. And the kid doesn’t even hesitate, jumps into the crowd, and surfs back to parent. It’s all fucking downhill from there, kid.
-Drummer Tre Cool tosses drumsticks over his shoulder at the end of every song.
-BJA plants a kiss on bassist Mike Dirnt’s cheek
-BJA uses a mic stand to, um, extend his manhood
-BJA crowd surf #1
In terms of content, the songs flow seamlessly from love to politics. There’s stick up your middle finger punk, to a potential first dance at a wedding song. Somehow they just make this work. One intro sounds oddly like the drums in NIN’s “1,000,000”, another sounds similar to The Decemberists’ “Giant Whale Attack”.
The cool thing about hearing an album in it’s entirety is hearing songs that may never get played much in reality. There are quite a few tracks that really push BJA’s vocal range, songs that I imagine sound great recorded, but won’t make the cut when the show goes on the road. It’s a shame- I’ll take the imperfections, but a stadium full of people may beg to differ.
The crowd was understandably a little subdued during this section of the set. They were listening attentively, in awe of being there. Oh, except for the stupid slam dancers in the middle of the floor. To each his own.
The band left the stage, returning after a few minutes of loud applause and screams by fans who probably knew they would come back out anyway. Launching into “American Idiot”, the crowd erupted in excitement. There’s nothing like hearing the familiar, even when you are in awe of the new.
A few songs in, they start taking crowd requests. Some people had signs made, and some of their requests were granted to much excitement. People started crowd surfing, pushing more and more, and generally let loose and got quite rowdy. There was no barrier; just this poor security guy standing front a center in front of BJA, packed in by fans. His job was to turn crowd surfers around who made it close to the stage, and try to keep people from grabbing BJA when he bent down to sing and play.
If I were to take pics or videos of this part of the set, you would see:
-BJA flubs words on “The Grouch”, picks high school aged girl from audience to sing it. She knows all the words, but not how to sing. She makes up for it with some excellent gestures.
-A major guitar f-up by Jason White. Hard to remember all the songs, I guess, but the out of tunage made me cringe.
-“Going to Pasalacqua” with Davey Havok from AFI on majority of vocals (whom HRC no likey)
-BJA stage dive #2, where he expertly landed in a fetal position
-Brutal stage dive from a big dude who was somehow associated with the band. Glad I was not standing where he landed. Jesus.
-Girls passing BJA notes. Ah, you don’t see that much anymore!
This part of the set felt very organic- beyond requests, there was a lot of chatting amongst the band members and switching up instruments. The setlist taped to the stage was already destroyed by BJA’s jumping around, anyway.
And yes, they played the ‘masturbation song’. My life has now come full circle.
Wow, what a show. Mucho respect for Green Day- you deserve to be one of the biggest bands, unlike many of the others on that list. You definitely got an album sale out of it from me. Unfortunately, how can I ever see them again? Does it get better than this?
Setlist Part 1:
21st Century Breakdown
Know Your Enemy
All My Love
East Jesus Nowhere
Last of the American Girls
See the Light
Setlist Part 2:
Jesus Of Suburbia
Give Me Novocaine
Stuck With Me
Blood, Sex & Booze
Going To Pasalacqua (with Davey Havok singing)
King For A Day
Fun fact for NIN fans: Josh Freese’s brother Jason is the keyboardist/saxophonist for Green Day. I knew it instantly when he walked out.
Green Day performance: 9.5/10
venue (DNA Lounge): 8.5/10
value ($20.00/ticket): 10/10