Green Day are my favourite band, hands down. I will aggressively debate anyone who thinks they suck, and I have an extensive list of witnesses who have already seen this happen.
Anyone who’s ever spoken to me for more than 5 minutes knows this. Anyone who’s ever dated me has been subjected to my ~flawless~ renditions in the car (not sorry). I will have Good Riddance (or Time of Your Life for all you semi-fans) played at my funeral despite the fact I loathe clichés.
Green Day have been a band since 1986. Originally called Sweet Children, they changed their name in 1989 due to their fondness for the devil’s lettuce. While 1994 release Dookie was the album responsible for launching them as an alternative act-to-watch internationally, 2004’s rock opera American Idiot got the lads international critical acclaim. This album won the Californian boys the Best Rock Album Grammy of 2005, and took out 7 of the eight awards it was nominated for at the 2005 MTV Music Awards, with the video for Boulevard of Broken Dreams being responsible for six of those wins. Alternative music magazine Kerrang! named American Idiot as the best album of the decade in 2009. Fast-forward a few years, and the fellas are currently touring their 12th (!) studio album, Revolution Radio. After 8 long years since their last Australian headlining tour, Green Day headed down under.
Green Day touched down in Australia at the end of April to prepare for their opening show in Perth. They visited Rottnest Island and got up close with quokkas before making their way to Adelaide. The trio soaked up all the goodness South Australia has to offer, such as koala holding at Cleland Wildlife Park. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was even spotted in the East End at Adelaide institution Midwest Trader.
Finally, on Wednesday night, it was our turn to host the Green Day at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
Fellow Californians The Interrupters opened for the rock gods. For anyone heading to the remaining shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland, the 4-piece ska-punk group from LA are worth getting in early for. Frontwoman Aimee ‘Interrupter’ Allen and brothers Kevin, Justin and Jesse Bivona (guitar, bass and drums respectively) are a great bunch in their own right, but their jovial sound juxtaposed with political messages complimented Green Day’s similarly political albeit harder style perfectly. Having previously been to Australia as a part of Soundwave Festival (RIP), and having supported the likes of Bad Religion, Rancid, Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, the band appeared to be in their element in front of the Adelaide crowd. After half an hour of punchy 90s-esque ska, The Interrupters departed the stage and the crowd eagerly awaited the main act.
Green Day opened as Green Day does, with Bohemian Rhapsody and Blitzkrieg Bop over the PA and a stumbling pink bunny on stage. Akin to Bugs Bunny schlepping around after a few too many on Adelaide Cup Day, no one knows* who’s in the suit or who is responsible for his mysterious ways. Mr Rabbit warms up the crowd with slapstick-style physical comedy, gallivanting around the stage. Long-time fans spread the word through the crowd that the appearance of drunk Bugs meant Green Day would be on shortly, and the excitement in the room reached a crescendo when Armstrong burst onto the stage and yelled “Australia!”
Launching straight into Know Your Enemy, the group opened with a literal bang thanks to fireworks. Engagement with the crowd was immediate, as Armstrong pulled a young female fan out of the audience to sing the bridge with him, and then do a running stage-dive off the end of the catwalk, jutting out from centre stage. Wasting no time and launching into songs off their latest album, Bang Bang and Revolution Radio were coupled with a vivid display of pyrotechnics. As the band moved into Holiday, Armstrong’s political message was strong, as he urged the crowd to unite as one and to never ostracise one another over gender, race or sexuality.
Green Day are a force to be reckoned with. They don’t ‘do’ concerts, they put on a show, particularly Armstrong. Bounding around the stage despite being in his mid-forties, the singer appears to have found only more energy with age. All three founding band members are essential, but there’s no denying Armstrong is the star. From his cheeky Cheshire Cat grin coupled with kohl-rimmed eyes, to his ability to leap around the stage in the tightest of skinny jeans, he’s larger than life. Adored by fans, the three people lucky enough to be invited to sing/play on stage with the rock veterans all hugged Armstrong like they truly loved him. He’s the ideal frontman for maximum entertainment, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Older Green Day fans were treated to a number of songs off Dookie, including Basket Case, When I Come Around and She. During Longview, Armstrong pulled a woman out of the audience to sing the third verse and finish the song with him. 1997’s Nimrod received air-time too, with Hitchin’ A Ride turning into a crowd sing-a-long. Delving even deeper into the Green Day archives, the trio pulled out 2000 Lightyears Away from Kerplunk, released in 1991. Deeper again, the boys went back to their roots with a cover of Operation Ivy’s Knowledge, which they originally covered on their second EP Slappy (1990). The last song for crowd involvement, Armstrong pulled a young boy out of the pit to play three chords of Knowledge on a slate grey Les Paul, absolutely making the kid’s night when, at the end of the song, the frontman told him he could keep the guitar.
After a brief break, Armstrong returned to the stage wearing a policeman’s hat, and when resident supporting guitarist Jason Freese switched out his guitar for a saxophone, long-term fans knew crowd-favourite King For A Day was imminent. Green Day’s comedic side takes centre stage in this number. The boys dress up in various costumes, from feather boas to 2007-esque Kayne West glasses, with bassist Mike Dirnt opting to wear the mask of his own face featured in the film clip for Bang Bang. Part way through the ballad, drummer Tré Cool took over as frontman for the bridge, singing and doing the highest can-can kicks I’ve ever seen a bloke achieve, while Armstrong tried his hand at Tre’s regular instrument. Freese came down the catwalk and jammed on his sax, beginning to cover George Michael’s Careless Whisper, before Armstrong took the opportunity to launch into a series of covers, including The Isley Brothers’ Shout, Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones and The Beatles’ Hey Jude, all of which were bellowed back at the band by the audience. As the show drew to a close, the group played slower track Still Breathing, before closing with Homecoming, a 9 minute ballad met with more pyrotechnics and fireworks.
Despite leaving the stage, we Adelaidians weren’t ready to let Green Day go just yet. The crowd’s demands of an encore were met with an explosive performance of American Idiot, a song so well-known Armstrong barely had to sing any of the lyrics (and used this opportunity to shout expletives about Donald Trump – which arguably got the biggest cheer of the night). Closing the encore, the frontman played both Ordinary World and crowd-pleaser Good Riddance solo, with only an acoustic guitar under a spotlight. In the last few bars, both Dirnt and Mr Cool joined Armstrong on stage. The trio linked arms and bid the crowd goodnight.
Green Day were bloody fantastic and put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen**. Even if partially due to escaping the current US political climate, the boys seemed genuinely happy to be back in Oz, and to be performing together. Their brotherhood appears to remain as tight as the early days of the band and as passionate as ever, which after over three decades, is a feat few groups manage. Seeing Green Day live should be on every punk kid’s bucket list. They’re just… phenomenal.
See y’all at the next show (by which time I’ll presumably be in my 30s).
* My money is on Tré Cool, but if you seriously know who’s in that damn bunny suit, find this writer on Facebook and put her out of her misery
** Admittedly, I’m a tad biased
Header image via Festileaks