Green Day - The O2 Arena, London
Whatever your opinions are of Green Day, no one can deny that they are one of biggest bands in the world right now. With their latest album 21st Century Breakdown receiving critical acclaim, going number one in no less than 16 countries and gaining at least gold status in twelve, it’s hard to ignore their recent success.
Anybody who has criticised the band’s recent output for being overblown and self indulgent or, perhaps the most common criticism, not punk music will definitely not have had their opinions changed by tonight’s show where it’s clear the only motto involved is ‘more is not enough’. However, for the 20,000 fans in the arena it will go down as one of the best live experiences they have ever had and one of the best live performances they are ever likely to witness.
One thing is clear from the outset tonight – this is no ordinary gig: this is an event. From the numerous pyrotechnics and strobe lighting to the vast amount of crowd interaction, Billie Joe and co are on a mission to turn a capacity gig feel like an intimate stage show (although the immense towers of fire that explode in the background during certain songs would become a serious hazard in any venue smaller than the O2). Green Day are not content just to have people leave the arena saying how good the band’s set was, they want the people to talk about ‘being there’ to their grandchildren in years to come. The result is an exhilarating, intense spectacle that kicks in at the opening bars of ‘Song Of The Century’ and doesn’t quit for two-and-a-half hours until the ending notes of ‘Good Riddance’.
Despite the warnings filling the walls leading into the arena about crowd surfing being prohibited, this is quashed during ‘21st Century Breakdown’ when Billie Joe pulls a willing member of the audience out onto the stage and then encourages him to run down the walkway and stage dive into the crowd. This type of crowd interaction happens regularly throughout the set, much to the annoyance of the security guards, but takes various forms. During ‘Longview’, not one, but three different crowd members are brought on stage to sing the track whilst during ‘East Jesus Nowhere’, a child is brought on stage from the seating area to be ‘cleansed’ by Billie Joe in one of the various theatrical elements of the set.
The band don’t stop there with the crowd interaction though; practically every song results in a crowd sing-along orchestrated by Billie Joe, often being a simple ‘which side of the arena is loudest’ challenge usually with a ‘hey-oh’ chant. The most surreal moment of the night though has to go to the toilet roll gun which is sprayed all over the front sections of the crowd during a bridge section halfway through the main set, much to the relief of the majority of the fans unable to keep up with the band’s endless energy.
If it hasn’t been made clear already, Billie Joe is the consummate frontman but he is more than amply supported by drummer Tre Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt who all know how to get a crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. Extended solos and breaks within songs are all timed to perfection in making sure that no one in the crowd is allowed to sit on their hands in the seating areas or stand with two feet firmly planted on the floor in the standing area. The latter section are frequently worked up enough to break out into mass mosh pits, especially during ‘St Jimmy’ and ‘American Idiot’, which were bound to leave participants being able to play dot-to-dot with the bruises on their bodies the morning after.
A set list is almost irrelevant when a band are such capable showmen who can make even the filler tracks of albums sound and feel like epic rock opuses on stage, but Green Day even come up trumps on that aspect of the gig as well. The opening half of the set consisted of newer material, including tracks from American Idiot as well as the latest album, before ‘2000 Light Years Away’ marked a change into a set designed to race through, at a breakneck pace, the best of Green Day pre-world domination. It served to ensure that everyone in the crowd, young and old fans alike, had something to enjoy even before the American Idiot-centric first encore and the acoustic, mass sing-along second encore.
The set also allowed the band to showcase their more playful side with two different medleys of classic songs. The first of which consisted of just the intros to ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Crazy Train’ while the second was much more substantial, beginning and ending with The Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ via The Undertones and The Doors amongst others. All of this was played with the band in fancy dress, including Tre Cool wearing a bra which he happily flaunted, and with them lying on the floor. It takes a certain kind of arrogance to expect that your audience will enjoy listening to a five-minute medley, but when it’s done in such a playful, enjoyable fashion, it’s hard not to throw your hands up and your head back.
The ironic aspect about Green Day is that the reasons they have been criticised for in recent years are also the reasons why the fans love them and, in particular, love their live sets. It’s hard to deny that they put on an overblown show and for playing over two-and-a-half hours practically non-stop, you could accuse them of being self indulgent. They are an oxymoron; a punk band who just can’t help but put on a show akin to a rock opera. Tonight’s gig won’t win over any new fans but they don’t need to; they are on the top of their game musically and one can only see them getting better, and bigger, from here.
SONG OF THE CENTURY
21ST CENTURY BREAKDOWN
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
EAST JESUS NOWHERE
THE STATIC AGE
BEFORE THE LOBOTOMY
ARE WE THE WAITING
BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS
2000 LIGHT YEARS AWAY
HITCHIN’ A RIDE
WELCOME TO PARADISE
WHEN I COME AROUND
IRON MAN / CRAZY TRAIN
KING FOR A DAY
SHOUT / I FOUGHT THE LAW / TEENAGE KICKS / BREAK ON THROUGH (TO THE OTHER SIDE) / (I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION
JESUS OF SUBURBIA
LAST NIGHT ON EARTH
WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS
GOOD RIDDANCE (TIME OF YOUR LIFE)