Last night I took my son Zack to see Green Day in Boston (Boston Globe review). Wow. Green Day at the Boston Garden (come on, I’m 43, it’s the Boston Garden, none of this TD Banknorth whatever corporate blah, blah) was one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot, and I mean a lot of rock shows. They weren’t Bruce Springsteen or U2, but then again who is? Those two acts really are in a league of their own when it comes to live shows, no disrespect to Green Day because if everyone is playing for third place after Bruce and U2, well Green Day may have the bronze medal. Yup, that good.
It’s hard to fill an arena, make it feel intimate, like a club. It’s difficult to sustain the energy for a couple of hours and have that energy match the rhythm and pace and flow of the music, song by song. Green Day does it and does it well. Thanks largely to lead singer/guitarist/frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. He knows how to connect, and well. It’s the little things such as accepting all the hugs from the multiple fans brought on stage to sing the verses of Longview, actually play the guitar on Jesus of Suburbia (nice job kid, whoever you were), or play the part of the person faux slain in the spirit during East Jesus Nowhere. Armstrong made sure the crowd was ready to catch them as they dove into the pit as an exit. He’s good enough that he can leave out the f— and the motherf——. It gets old and it’s not necessary. He and Green Day can pull off the attitude and the music (within which the language doesn’t bother me so much) without it.
A couple of things to note that are spelled out elsewhere (see reviews of the tour by Rolling Stone, SPIN, and another Father and Son account by my friend Eric at the blog Life is a Mystery), but worth mentioning again:
1. The intergenerational audience – We opted for the budget saving upper balcony 300 level seats (there really isn’t a bad seat in the house in the redone Garden). All over our section, there were young people in attendance with parents. The parents by and large were not chaperones, but wanted to be there. The parents, like me, were also fans.
2. The use of multi-media – From the lit up cityscape and explosions transitioning Song of the Century/21st Century Breakdown to the confetti blowers during the final encore of Minority (so that the confetti floated around during Macy’s Day Parade and Good Riddance) the multi media was fantastic. The multi-televison screen backdrop during American Idiot recalled U2’s Zoo TV tour.
Green Day increasingly reminds me of the Clash. Given the differences in time and country, they are more so than less politically aligned and although described as punk with its ethos of bank out your three chords, both bands are far beyond that musically. The Clash wrote and Green Day write pop songs with great hooks. They are both far better musicians than three chord wonders. Musically, my favorite Green Day songs are the softer pieces – Wake Me Up When September Ends, Macy’s Day Parade, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Boulevard of Broken Dreams and lyrically the more politically charged pieces, which is much of their work, but especially American Idiot. American Idiot and Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising were the two works that I fell back on time and again to get through the Bush years.
Green Day on CBS Sunday Morning on May 24, 2009:
Green Day is a smart band. It’s why I like them so much and why I’m pleased my soon to be teenager is into them as opposed to other music he could be into that is lyrically less engaging, and yes, even musically less challenging than their punk-pop.
When I hear “I don’t want to live in the modern world” in American Eulogy, I think, or more accurately I over-think – right, I don’t want to live in the modern world either, we’ve moved into the post-modern world and if we remain in the modern world we’ll be stuck, less able to adapt, find new solutions to new problems and we will write an American Eulogy along the lines of the ones described in the song. Don’t know if that’s what Armstrong was thinking, probably not, but that’s where I go when I hear that. I’m not so out of it that I think my son is doing this deep, but I do know that he understands American Idiot and that he knows he’s spent most of his life watching “everybody do the propaganda /And sing along to the age of paranoia.”
The setlist from last night’s show, July 20, 2009 in Boston: