Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Green Day Saved My Rock-N-Roll Soul Last Night

Here's an oldie...A review from 2009.  I'm posting a new Green Day review momentarily and wanted to link to this.  I was surprised only to find it on my personal Facebook page.  These were the days before blogging (and I'm sure as I go back and read through this it'll fall into the "I can't believe how crappy I wrote three years ago" and the "I said such stupid, embarrassing things three years ago" categories...

Written August 12, 2009...


My wife and I saw the Green Day Show at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis last night.

I’d heard it was woefully undersold, so I had hoped we’d be bumped up into better seats. We were – front and center, one tier off the floor.

My musical tastes run pretty far left of center, so I don’t attend many “popular/mainstream” concerts. Quite in fact, the last “big” show I remember going to was the Rolling Stones in 1997 or ’98. Since I bought the Green Day tickets, leading up to the show, I’d become fond of saying that I hadn’t been this excited about a mainstream concert since I was a teenager with disposable income and bad taste in music.

Upon arriving at the show, my first thought was, “I’m the oldest guy here”. Then I realized I wasn’t in fact the oldest in the entire room. There were plenty older than me. Of course, they were all chauffeuring 13 year old kids!

From the get-go, Green Day made it known that they were there to rock. As I figured, they opened with several songs from their new album “21st Century Breakdown” and included a few from American Idiot.

The graphics used in their stage show were easily the best I’ve ever seen at a concert. They didn’t make much use of the jumbotron in the typical sense. Normally, the big screen is just a large-view version of what’s happening on stage. Not this time – this screen was filled with images, photos, graphics, and videos, setting the tone for every one of their songs.

The first third of the concert was filled with Green Day’s recent “message” music. If you’re not in the know, their first “rock opera”, “American Idiot”, dealt with the frustration, anger, uncertainty, and fear facing war in the age of George W. Their second rock opera (By the way…how many modern rock and roll bands do you know – other than the Who – who can pull off TWO ROCK OPERAS IN A ROW??? I suppose it could be argued that “American Idiot” was more of a concept record than a rock opera, but I digress…), “21st Century Breakdown” deals with the frustrations and disillusions of living in the early part of the 21st century.

From a rock show standpoint, Billie Joe Armstrong personally carried the show for over two hours. He’s one of the best front-men I’ve ever seen. He did call-and-response chants with the audience through the whole show and implored everyone to stay on our feet and keep our hands in the air. We did. We ALL did. Even the moms and dads of the 13-year olds.

Everyone knows Green Day as a trio, and I’m not sure how they’ve presented their music on past tours, but for this tour, they had two extra guitar players, a keyboard player, and incorporated occasional saxophone and accordion, which all added up to a HUGE sound.

Given the powerful sound, the visuals, the energy, and Billy Joe’s wild front-man antics, it was impossible not to get swept up into the frenzy.

Lots of audience participation: During “East Jesus Nowhere”, Green Day’s critique of organized religion, he brought a six year old girl, Allison, out of the audience, to “save” her. She led the audience in rock ballad hand-waving and received special instructions from Billy Joe during an instrumental section…leading up to a massive pyrotechnic explosion. Allison, in perfect timing, collapsed to the floor with the explosion, having received the spirit. The poor girl, who was six, was booed heartily by the audience when she told Billy Joe she was from Chicago. He made up for it, declaring her an official St. Louis citizen. After her “salvation”, he sang her an impromptu version of Elvis Costello’s “Allison”.

Kids were called up to sing, stage dive, and help Billy Joe shoot the audience with water guns. And on their song “Longview”, a girl was brought up to sing the first part all by herself. Then he brought a goofy teenaged punk-rock boy up to sing the second half. This dude OWNED the stage – no fear at all. He knew the words and he knew how to put on a show. He sang with his arm around Billy Joe, climbed the drum riser, used all the cliché rock poses, etc. At the end of the song, the kid timed a stage dive perfectly to the music. But without advance knowledge of his plans, the audience clearly panicked. They separated and the kid did a total face-plant on the concrete. Seriously. Billy Joe’s sympathetic response? “You stupid mother-F’er”. Punk rawk.

Billy Joe did come to the audience’s defense a few times – most notably during their second song. He stopped the band cold and accosted a security guard for trying to stop a girl from taking a picture. Cameras were banned – clearly not a priority of the band.

The second third of the show was the requisite “hits” package…including everything Green Day had been known for between about 1990 and 2005. I preferred the “message” portion of the show, but the kids clearly preferred the old school hits. The band did a great job of incorporating lots of classic rock songs and party anthems (Shout) into this portion – a kick for the older folks, I’m sure, and hopefully an education for the kids.

They ended with more “message” music and really took it up a notch for the “American Idiot” encore.

I really hope the 13 year olds got the message. For a long time Green Day were known as booger-flickin’ punk rock jerks. They have something to say now. And while they are definitely trying to incite a “riot” among the youth, it’s not a booger-flicking, senselessly angry riot. It’s one in which the kids righteously question authority and fight the power. Which, after all, is what being young is SUPPOSED to be all about. Now kids, I’m not saying to disrespect your parents and be immoral. You can question authority and fight the power without that.


I do think you should play music that disturbs your parents at excessively loud volumes, though. And you can tell ‘em I said so.

“Let fury have the hour…Anger can be power…D’you know you can use it?”
-Joe Strummer, the Clash

While I obviously appreciate Green Day’s revolutionary message and rebellious stance, I took another good lesson away…Billy Joe talked about the recent town hall meetings “where people have been bickering and fighting”. And said we were there that night to have a good time. But there was still the message. A revolution doesn’t have to exclude fun. It doesn’t have to bear the weight of the world in total seriousness.

In the words of V, from “V for Vendetta”: “A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having”. Here-here!

May we all question authority. May we all shake things up. May we all rebel against things we think aren’t right. May we all fight what we know is wrong. May we all not settle for apathy.

“I want to be the minority…I don’t need your authority…Down with the moral majority…'Cause I want to be the minority”
-Green Day

I pledge my allegiance to the minority. The minority that doesn’t listen to corporate media. The minority who chooses righteous anger and peaceful action over apathy and hopelessness. The minority who reaches out to take care of people rather than propagating corporate greed. The minority who doesn’t believe I need something just because my TV tells me so. The minority who doesn’t believe I should be scared just because some politician tells me I should. The minority who looks out for others and tries to make sure we’re all taken care of. I’ll throw my hat in with them.

Oh yeah…And may we all destroy our hearing with aggressive rock and roll music that scares the establishment.

Hallelujah.

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