Green Day Delivers Sprawling 2.5-Hour Set at U.S. Tour Closer: Concert Review
Here's good news for Green Day fans: judging from the band's sprawling two-and-half-hour set Thursday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong seems to have slayed his demons -- or at least figured out how harness them to drive marathon-like performances.
Last September, Armstrong had one of the most famous onstage flameouts in recent memory when he lost it at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas. It prompted a trip to rehab to deal with his alcoholism and prescription pill problem, delayed the band's tour and interrupted the release and promotion of the group's ambitious album trilogy -- Uno!, Dos! and Tre!.
While Armstrong's personal struggles seemingly zapped the band's momentum, they were firing on all cylinders on Thursday night. The show fell on the same night as the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and on the eve of the second weekend of the Coachella Music Festival, two important musical events that that could be in Green Day's future. Don't be surprised if the band is nominated for the Rock Hall in 2015 (when it'll be eligible 25 years after the release of their debut album) or turns up as a future headliner in Indio, where its punk roots and drawing power would surely be appreciated. On Thursday, Green Day drew a capacity crowd in midst of the competing high-profile events.
Even before the band hit the stage, Billie Joe and company tipped their hands by playing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" over the P.A., hinting at the mix of arena-rock muscle and punk-rock spirit that was to come.
The core trio of Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt (pictured below) and drummer Tre Cool were assisted at times by three additional musicians on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals throughout the career-spanning set. Throughout the set, new material such as the old-time rock 'n' roll-flavored "Oh Love" and the set-closing "Brutal Love" held up well against the band's classics like "Welcome to Paradise" and "Longview."
Since the band's commercial breakthrough in the mid-'90s, Green Day's been criticized by some of punk's originators as inauthentic, but you have to credit the band for bringing the spirit of punk rock to the mainstream, even if it's a little toned down for mass consumption -- or familiar-sounding.
When it comes to the punk anyone-can-be-a-star ethos, Armstrong tried to instill the notion in the all-ages crowd, even bringing fans onstage to sing lead on two different occasions and goading them into stage-diving into the crowd. But it seemed all pre-planned, lacking punk danger and spontaneity. And, the band's two forays into cover versions -- first a medley of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" and later, a mash-up of "Shout," "California Dreaming," "California Here I Come," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Hey Jude" -- were straight out of The Replacements playbook in attitude and execution.
Yet Green Day showed that they've transcended their initial influences to create a body of work that will likely be considered classic rock in the future, if it isn't already. The band's 1996 song "Brain Stew" didn't sound out of place when it followed the AC/DC and Led Zep classics. And, the songs from their 2004 multi-platinum album American Idiot, including the mid-set performance of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and the encore double-shot of the title track and "Jesus of Suburbia," were nothing less than stunning.
With frequent split-legged leaps off the monitors, Armstrong was in non-stop motion through much of the set, save for the few times he collapsed on his back to ratchet-up the drama. He left the more intricate guitar work, most notably the solo on "Holiday," to long-time touring member Jason White. But, overall the band was tight instrumentally and Armstrong was strong in voice, with the exception of the purposely sloppy cover medley.
If there's a problem with Green Day, you could say it's over-ambition, which is to say the flipside to Armstrong's protagonist in his slacker anthem "Longview." With a three-album trilogy and two-and-half hour shows, it seems that Green Day is following the lead of such icons as The Clash and Bruce Springsteen. Great role models, but even they lost a few fans along way.
Opening the show with a short, but sweet 30-minute set was local duo Best Coast, augmented to a quartet for touring purposes. In songs like "The Only Place" and "Boyfriend," singer Bethany Cosentino managed to conjure up the perfect mix of sweetness, disinterest and regret while guitarist Bob Bruno laid down classic rock riffs, drawing from surf and garage rock and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. They were able to survive Green Day's pranks -- including someone dancing in a bunny suit and a toilet-paper gun that covered the stage in bathroom tissue -- and seem primed for the next level.
Know Your Enemy
Stay the Night
Stop When the Red Lights Flash
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Geek Stink Breath
Welcome to Paradise
Going to Pasalacqua
Highway to Hell / Rock and Roll
King for a Day
Shout / California Dreaming / California Here I Come / (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction / Hey Jude
Jesus of Suburbia