September 4, 2010
(Far) better than: A skeptical old Green Day fan would expect.
"HOME! HOME! I'M FUCKING HOME!" erupted Green Day
's Billie Joe Armstrong at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Saturday, his first words after the band leveled 22,000 people with the introductory steamroll of "21st Century Breakdown." "IT'S BEEN MONTHS," Armstrong wheezed, like his voice alone had to carry to every single one of the teenagers, drunkass rock dudes, tweens, MILF-y Silicon Valley parentals, ex-punk rockers and little girls in pink bunny ears that made up Saturday's sold-out crowd. "IT'S BEEN FUCKING YEAAAARS." Green Day was finally back in the Bay Area, and over the next three hours, in between covering AC/DC, shooting toilet paper at the crowd, teaching the tweens to stage dive, and letting one ecstatic, squeaky-voiced fan sing "Longview," Armstrong hoarsely called out the name of probably every single city in the greater Bay Area -- multiple times -- as a reminder.
Which is only how a hometown show by the biggest Bay Area musical export of the last fifteen years should be. The Oakland band exploded into ubiquity in 1994 with the self-loathing sarcasm of Dookie
, became inescapable again in 2004 with the drive-by political angst of American Idiot
, and has since solidified into a hybrid titan of pissed off pop-punk and ambitious arena rock, 65 million albums sold.
On Saturday, this megastar band somehow made Shoreline feel intimate -- possibly because Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt wandered every inch of the stage, laid down on the stage, brought whole classrooms of high school kids on the stage, and sprayed water from hoses onstage. Or maybe because the band played upwards of 30 songs (depending on how you count some brief covers) like it had a mosh pit to fuel, instead of a bunch of really enthusiastic parents.
The tour-de-force set list focused heavily on the weighty rock of American Idiot
and 21st Century Breakdown
, its not-quite-as-impressive follow-up -- but also touted a solid helping of Dookie
), along with expected tunes like "Good Riddance," a/k/a "Time of Your Life," or as you may think of it, the graduation song. But, telling of the dimensions of this band's recent success, many in Saturday's audience didn't look old enough to have graduated from anything yet. And those fans certainly had no idea what to make of it when Billie Joe triumphantly held up the teal Stratocaster he often played in 1994 like it was some holy treasure.
The band's sound, even with the old strat, was all 2010, complete with an earthquake kick drum and the overcompressed guitar tone Armstrong uses lately. And this isn't a lean outfit anymore: Green Day had to double in size to play many new tunes live. But while the band looks and sounds different from its original 924 Gilman-haunting incarnation, fast new songs like "American Eulogy" -- and the bulk of highlights from American Idiot
-- showed Green Day has retained all its agility.
Saturday's homecoming sounded a lot like listening to rock radio for three hours, albeit with fireworks and flame throwers. Green Day's late material borrows heavily from classic rock, which, instructively the band also covered at varying lengths: Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Zep's "Rock 'n' Roll, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," and especially the Who's
"Teenage Wasteland" "Baba O'Riley" had a moment, along with many others. Even "When I Come Around," a crisp punk tune in when the band released it in 1994, got slightly slower, heavier, and more percussive, making for a highlight of the set.
The nine-minute "Jesus of Suburbia" medley and tearjerker power ballad "Wake Me Up When September Ends" felt perfectly huge, then, with a towering video screen backdrop and climaxes punctuated by sparklers and towers of flame. And thanks to Armstrong's angsty Bay Area boosterism -- along with local praise, his exclamations included digs on much of the southern half of the state -- Saturday's set felt more like a one-off celebration than the well-rehearsed tour stop it really was.
Chin-scratching thought: Green Day began as a punk band with pop inclinations, wielding a skeptical outlook and a economical sound largely as a reaction to the grandiosity of arena rock. Twenty-two years later, the greatest legacy of this Bay Area band may be its startling success at fusing those two styles.
"Fire!": Billie Joe Armstrong shot a hilarious variety of items at the crowd from onstage, including: water, T-shirts, and toilet paper out of a special toilet paper gun. The members of opener AFI came out at one point, all dressed as Santa Claus, and threw hot dogs to the audience.
Quote of the Night:
"A lot of fucking assholes from the Bay Area, they split and go to a shithole called Hollywood," Armstrong spat at one point. "Well I'm fucking staying in Oakland, baby."Also: Check out our photo slideshow from Saturday's concert.