Friday, July 17, 2009
"do you have the time
to listen to me whine
about nothing and everything
all at once?"
Much like The Offspring, I first saw Green Day in the company of my pre-teen son back in '95. That show was at the cozy Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (back when they played shows with the original three-man contingent). This one's a little less intimate and not so close to home. For reasons unknown they've passed on the big city this time through Canada. Been awhile since they've been about too but they've never dissappointed.
Bad news heading out of Toronto (usually an hour away from Hamilton), as the 403 going in the other direction was completely shut down since 2 pm for an accident with loss of life. Ironically this didn't affect our drive until we were about 200 yards from our highway exit...where we sat, for 20 minutes, without moving forward.
Taking a chance I opt to enter the city from another highway exit a couple kilometers further along. This is a risk because I have no maps and Hamilton is an upside-down-one-way-street-mofo to get around in. Happens that accident forced all westbound traffic into the city...all day long. By 7 pm it was one massive grid-lock. We finally make our way to the general vicinity of the arena where I make my next error. I don't park on King St, but on Bay St. This will add 45 minutes to my egress at the end of the show.
The Bravery in the opening slot, was a bonus. Too bad we missed about a third of their set as we had to meander through a 30 minute line up to gain entrance with the 'forced will call' policy in place.
With Green Day having been away so long they had ample time to build a show...and that they did. Big screen videos, pyrotechnics and too many opportunities for audience participation. Nobody just does a concert anymore.
The set comes in at a staggering 2 hours and 15 minutes, long by any account. Back in the day this band would have played around 60 songs in that time period. 'Course, I also remember when Green Day was a 3-man outfit. Tonight we get 23 songs or so, depending on how you count the intro and the medley. About a half hour of that time was filled with Billy Joe exhorting the audience to chant in variance cadences...mostly the old fall back "Aaaaa, Ooooo". Twenty-five call outs to "Hamilton" and "Canada" filled another half dozen minutes. Three trips to the stage for kids under 10 to participate in various ways with the show took up 17 minutes. "Guest" singers filled about 3 and a half minutes. Don't forget the t-shirt toss. When you boil it all down you're still left with an awesome 70 minute set.
There were highlights, low lights, and things in between.
The definite low was the aforementioned incessant chant mongering.
The encore was a distinct highlight as it was delivered with little unneccesary interuption. The kid pulled out of the audience to play lead guitar on Jesus of Suburbia was great. Had me smiling as I watched him cavort around the stage trying to interact with Mike on bass. He was having nothing of it. I mean as big as you are when you're Green Day, it's gotta be weird to see a kid from Sect 5 Row B Seat 12 play your songs as good as you could.
The medley was terrific too. Billy Joe started out doing his best imitation of Carla from Cheers with the opening segment of Shout, which was explosive. The band then laid on the stage for the middle section of ballads/slow songs before springing back to life for the reprise of Shout. Great use of the horns which were around for a couple of songs from the new record.
In between was Longview, sung by two tone-deaf kids out of the audience. On the upside there's no mistaking what a great experience this must have been, to be belting out this song with Green Day backing you. Both the young girl and boy who took part relished the chance and played it to the hilt. Sent goosebumps up my arm. Technically, though, they murdered the song, sent a chill down my spine. Even-Steven.
This tour is really the 21st Century Breakdown Opus with a light smattering of thematically related songs from American Idiot. The other hits were rather random, or expected, and the band really didn't pay them as much heed as I'd have liked.
I spent half the night thinking, "I don't get it, what is this shit?" Each time the chants threatened to get repetitive or the special guests made the show drag. In the end it wasn't shit...I just didn't get it, at first. This is a band of modest talent and big heart. As Billy Joe said during one of his rants, it's NOW that we have to enjoy, so get off your ass, put down your computer, your cell phones or your ritalin and find your groove. He seemed pleased to see the kids sharing the spotlight and really sees his job as head cheerleader for anyone who wants to let loose. That might be incongruous with the epic (for Green Day anything over 4 minutes is epic), political songs they're flogging and maybe it's that dichotomy that made this show strange.
Here's the set list and a few mp3 samples.
Song of the Century
21st Century Breakdown
Know Your Enemy
East Jesus Nowhere
The Static Age
Before the Lobotomy
Are We the Waiting
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Hitchin' A Ride
King For A Day
Shout/Earth Angel, I'll Be There, and Stand By Me snippets (The Isley Brothers cover)
Jesus Of Suburbia (Sam from Toronto on lead guitar)
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)