Sunday, 25 October 2009

Green Day @ The O2, London (23rd October 2009)

During the show at London's O2 (formerly the Millenium Dome), Billie Joe Armstrong stops the band and announces that this month marks the twenty-first anniversary of Green Day being together. From their early beginnings as 'Sweet Children' through to their striking gold with their pop punk classic 'Dookie' and eventually on to the stadium rock of recent years, Green Day are a band who always seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Their sixth studio album, Warning, found the band maturing with their listeners, whereas the band that emerged with 2005's 'American Idiot' and follow up '21st Century Breakdown' were a newly invigorated, politically minded machine which earned the trio a whole new fanbase of teenagers who identified with the huge rock and roll sound and angry lyricism.

This mix of older fans and young new recruits are fully evidenced tonight, with the crowd being a mixed bag of twenty somethings and teenagers, all eagerly anticipating their favorite songs. The band are fully aware of this contrast, and kick off the show with a selection of singles from their two new albums, which get an extremly enthusiastic response from everyone, particularly the younger demographic. After about four or five newer songs, Billie Joe asks the crowd, "Any old-school Green Day fans here tonight?", before launching into the one of the highlights of the night, '2000 Light Years Away', from their second disc, 'Kerplunk'. This gets them an enormously positive response from the twenty-something crowd but mostly blank looks from the young folks. Thats not to say that they weren't enjoying it, but the this song marks the first of a good run of older popular Green Day material including, 'Welcome to Paradise', 'Basket Case' and 'When I Come Around', all drawing sing-a-longs and dancing from an eager crowd.
The evening continues in a similar vein, with the band careful not to alienate either of their main groups of fans, playing a few old tracks, then a few new ones, then some old ones, and so on.

You can tell Green Day are completely comfortable with their stadium rock band credentials, as they guide the crowd through singing, laughter and sheer joy. A favourite of theirs is after the guitar solo or break in a song, before it goes back into the chorus or final verse, to keep playing the same bar over and over again, while Billie Joe invites the crowd to repeat parts of the chorus or join him in a 'whooah-oh-oh-oah!'. Sometimes this will go on for a couple of minutes, until the crowd are completely involved, baying for that final chorus as the song kicks back in.

For years now, the band have happily involved the audience by pulling kids out of the crowd and getting them to sing along to songs, or even to take the lead vocal, before usually inviting them to stagedive off the runway from the front of the stage. Each and every one of the kids pulled out from the crowd immediately run to Billie Joe to hug him, frequently exclaiming 'I love you!', some also managing to get a hug from bassist Mike Dirnt.

Towards the end of the set, a lone Billie Joe steps into the runway spotlight, acoustic guitar in hand, heading into more sombre fare like 'Wake me up when September Ends', then teasing the older fans (holding their breath for 'Good Riddance') with other newer acoustic numbers. Its when he finally breaks into it that the whole crowd, young or old(er), unite in a sing along, placing 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' firmly in place as a generation-defining song.

Billie Joe has been criticised before, both in the press and formerly, within the band itself, as being a spotlight-hog, and its clear throughout the show, especially in the closing songs, that he's very much the band 'leader'. But Green Day would fall flat on its face were it not for the energetic rhythm of drummer Tre Cool and the frankly inspired basslines of Mike Dirnt, who also fleshes out the songs with fantastic backing vocals and harmonies. It is this spot-on combination, this pure distillation of talent and perfect symbiosis of band members that has taken them from East-Bay garages to stadium venues, producing consistent albums and pitch-perfect pop-punk songs, those which have captured the minds and hearts of almost two generations of listeners.

An amazing live show from a band that have hit their prime and pretty much stayed there.
Great stuff.

Rating -
9 / 10

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