with Kaiser Chiefs
Amway Arena, Orlando, FL • Aug. 5, 2009
It smells like pot, I’m catching stage divers while pogoing ‘round the edges of the circle pit, and Billie Joe just mooned the crowd. I can almost imagine that it’s 1994, if not for all the iPhones in the air, and the fact that this Green Day concert is happening in a basketball arena.
Their 2005 punk rock opera, American Idiot, and its subsequent sold-out tour, yanked them out of the trenches and turned them into something not even they ever expected to be – rockstars. The sort-of-sequel-but-not-really follow up to that landmark album, 21st Century Breakdown, proved to the world that they had earned that title, and this summer’s tour behind that record is an even bigger statement as to the validity of Green Day as a rock ‘n’ roll band. This show’s got fire, canons of confetti, massive screens, and showers of sparks that rain down dramatically above the band. It’s also got a top notch British band warming things up.
Kaiser Chiefs have never really caught on here in the states, but in their native England they scored a number one hit with the terribly catchy “Ruby,” which was one of the half dozen songs they played to a wonderfully receptive early crowd. Though I’m willing to gamble that most of the Green Day fans had no knowledge of the band’s Jam meets Blur sound prior to the show, they were helpless to resist the pop music appeal of “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” and “I Predict a Riot.” If fans were in danger of spacing out during their set, front man Ricky Wilson made sure to bring their attention back to the stage with his sporadic leaps high into the air. Never underestimate the power of a spontaneous jump – or a post new wave pop song sung with a British accent.
Set changes are a time to empty one’s bladder and grab another brew before the big show begins, but if you’re waiting in lines at a Green Day show you’re missing one of their most endearing live show quirks. I’m referring to the drunken pink bunny. The character popped up a few tours back and has been chugging beers and goofing off with the crowds ever since. His appearance is sure to get the fans on their feet, if only because it means that soon the lights will drop, and the band will appear.
Walking out onto the Amway Arena stage, with the recorded version of the album intro “Song of the Century” barely audible above the vocal roar of the crowd, the trio – and their accompanying touring second guitarist Jason White and multi-instrumentalist Jason Freese – paused only briefly to smile at the screaming faces before falling headfirst into “21st Century Breakdown.” From the first struck power chord the energy put out by Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals/guitar), Mike Dirnt (bass), and Tre Cool was age defying. Armstrong in particular ran around the stage, the cat walk, and even up the stairs onto the second level of the arena floor, with endurance usually reserved for young bands looking to prove themselves. They may all be dads these days, but they’ve lost none of the vitality that has always fueled their live shows.
Connecting with their audience in a way that’s virtually unheard of at this level of fame, Armstrong pulled fans out of the crowd and onto the stage a half dozen times throughout the two-and-a-half hour set. They sang along with him on some of the band’s most mosh-worthy songs (“Longview,” “Holiday”), they went through mock baptisms (“East Jesus Nowhere”), and one lucky 14-year-old aspiring rocker got to play guitar on all nine minutes of “Jesus of Suburbia” – and did it with style, duck walking and doing kick jumps.
Most of these fans exited the stage the only way one should, by running down the cat walk and diving head first into a sea of hands.
As I said earlier, Green Day have become rockstars. From singing songs about masturbation and smoking weed, to writing epic commentaries of politics and society – they’ve matured as writers without losing an ounce of their ability to structure a good pop melody. Don’t let the songs about war and economic collapse fool you though, these East Bay, California boys are still as wildly silly as ever. Throughout the night they dressed up in ridiculous outfits (Armstrong as a Disney cop, Cool as an old lady, Dirnt wearing bunny ears), they sprayed the audience with a supersoaker and shot rolls of toilet paper over fans’ heads, and Armstrong joked about having anal sex with Kaiser Chief’s Wilson. They also spent 10 minutes playing bits and pieces of classic rock songs – touching upon The Doors, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motley Crue, and The Kinks. In the midst of all of that cock rock they played an oddly gorgeous bit of “Earth Angel” by The Penguins.
The night closed with a monumental encore of “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia,” followed by an acoustic trio of songs by Armstrong performed at the edge of the catwalk. With sweat pouring down his face and arms, and within inches of emotionally drained fans, he eased his way from “Christie Road” and “Waiting” into the unforgettable “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
If you haven’t seen Green Day perform at their current level, or have never seen them perform at all, then you may not believe me when I say that they have secured themselves into an elite group of rock bands who are capable of delivering the goods at an arena rock level, without sacrificing substance or intimacy. They shoot for the moon without fear of failing because the mass attention and approval was never important to them to begin with.
To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Green Day: http://www.greenday.com/site/homepage.php