Green Day Live: Tour Kick Off In Chicago
Green Day was originally scheduled to play in Chicago this past January; however, unless you have been living under a rock, everyone is well aware of the trials and tribulations the band has endured over the last six months. There's really no point in rehashing them for the sake of journalistic attentiveness, but what is crucial is the band took to the stage with a force and collective mission to deliver a knock-out like a collective group of champion prize fighters. The pre-show music of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop" ignited the audience and as drunken bunny left the stage and Green Day opened their 135-minute set with "99 Revolutions" from ˇTré! , Five of the first seven songs came from ˇUno!, ˇDos!, and ˇTré! the trilogy of albums that came out late last year. Despite the novelty of these new songs, the band robustly delivered them like they're stone cold classics and the audience embraced them like long lost friends. The connection Green Day has with their fans is a vibrant and vivacious one. There's appears to be an unspoken understanding between the two where neither are willing to let the other down which was on display for a conquering opening night of their tour.
The trilogy of albums Green Day released last year confounded many. One thing I am certain of is that time will paint this trilogy in a better light. Green Day found themselves in an unfeasible situation. After releasing back-to-back concept records with American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, they had little wiggle room with their next move. If they proceeded with another multi-act record, they would be viewed as a pretentious but if they released a single record of rock songs, it would feel insignificant coming off of the previous decade of exploration. It's almost as if releasing three records in three months was their only move. With nearly forty songs released in less than three months, everyone felt deluged by the sheer abundance of new music. Listening to one new album of songs is a rarity in this day and age for many fans, but three in as many months may have been a bit too much. Not to mention that due to aforementioned circumstances, the band was unable to promote the record. However, on the concert stage, the Chicago audience was there to focus on these songs which sounded luminously resplendent. "Stay the Night", "Stop When the Red Lights Flash", "Stray Heart" and "Oh Love" featured all of the hallmarks of a great Green Day song with the band jolting the crowd with arena-made anthems. "Oh Love" took on such an overjoyed state, it's hard to believe the song is less than a year old with the crowd swaying their arms in sync. Most acts performing in arenas are living off of former glories and when the new songs are performed fans rush to purchase beer, sit or stare off into the distance. None of this was on display during Green Day's 27-song set as their commitment to the audience is singular and matchless.
Billie Joe Armstrong took to the stage, leaped on a monitor at the front of the stage and lifted his arms to the air as the audience roared as he welcomed the crowd into his home. Armstrong was as lively and animated as I've ever seen him. His hard fought sobriety followed him to the concert stage. Bassist Mike Dirnt stalked the stage providing the muscle the songs required behind his four-string bass while drummer Tré Cool dazzled behind his drum kit keeping the beat fast and furious for the entirety of the show. A special mention must be given to guitarist Jason White who has been touring with the band since 1999. He became an official member in 2012 for good reason- his rhythm playing is fierce and focused and it slows Armstrong to be one of rock n' roll's great front man, whose purpose is to keep the crowd on their feet with their arms in the air. The band were in peak form and while the show featured many of the same gimmicks that have accompanied previous tours, the members of Green Day perform each note with such earnestness you can't help but be pulled into their musical orbit.
The current concert tour is a showcase for the new songs, but it doesn't mean the band isn't willing to deliver the goods to their fans, which includes going back to the very beginning. "Disappearing Boy" and "Going to Pasalacqua" were dusted off from the band's debut 39/Smooth which was originally recorded in 1989. "2000 Light Years Away" represented Kerplunk proving that no matter how much success they've attained, Green Day is not scared to look to the past embracing it and taking these songs into present day. There were a whole slew of cover songs worked in through medleys; "Sweet Home Alabama", "I Don't Know" (by Ozzy), "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Highway to Hell", "Shout", "Satisfaction" and "Hey Jude" all of which allowed the band to let out their inner geek while instigating sing-a-longs amidst their vast catalog.
The hits that took punk from the underground into the stratosphere tested the sound boundaries of the arena. "Know Your Enemy" was fist pumping furious, "Holiday" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" pushed the crowd to realms of ecstasy unforeseen while a colossal rejoinder was given to a trio of Dookie songs; "When I Come Around", "Longview" and "Basket Case". On the Dookie songs, Armstrong barely needed to sing as the crowd reaction was deafening. For "Longview" the band plucked a teen boy from the crowd who sang the song with all of the conviction of a punk from the 1970's. I see dozens of shows every year, many of them arena shows, most of which I enjoy immensely. However, you sense that while these acts bask in the audience applause, they do not wish to allow them into your home whereas Green Day doesn't just welcome its fans, but makes them the center of attention. As a result, the crowd rewards the band when new songs such as "X-Kid" and "Brutal Love" are performed the crowd welcomes them with open arms.
In a concert that didn't pause for a single moment, Green Day unleashed a devastating double punch of "American Idiot" and the epic nine-minute anthem "Jesus of Suburbia" during the encore. Looking over the sold-out crowd, it was hard to tell whether parents were taking their children or if children were the ones taking their parents. It didn't matter because whatever differences they had dissipated the second the lights went off and thy thrust their arms to the air unified and united. Most acts put up a barrier between them and their audience with the power and delivery of the music being a one-way street. The potential for arena and stadium audiences is boundless, but the act has to be willing to let their guard down and let the audience in. Green Day didn't differentiate between those on the general admission floor and in the furthest nook of the arena, they were all one in the same and the audience knows this. Despite the lack of any video screens, the band makes the second largest arena in Chicago feel like an intimate club. With a top ticket price of $52, Green Day is without question the best band for your buck touring the arena circuit at this very moment. Whatever questions one may have had before the lights went out, by the time them came on over two hours later, it was apparent that Green Day wasn't just back, but had returned to the concert stage with the strength and fortitude to be as best they've ever been.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Green Day Live: Tour Kick Off In Chicago
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