Frantic, fanatical anticipation filled the air Aug. 30 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine as Billie Joe Armstrong, lead vocalist and guitarist of Green Day took to the stage in one of the last stops of the group’s 21st Century Breakdown tour.
It soon became clear that this concert was going to be a security guard’s worst nightmare, as Armstrong boldly proclaimed to the crowd that the pit was too small and that he wanted people from the stands to come down and fill it. After making this statement, Armstrong claimed that this was his concert and that he’d do whatever he wanted to do.
Maybe it’s this fan-friendly appreciation and attitude that has helped Green Day maintain its claim to fame, namely, that it has the best live shows. The punk-rock trio consists of Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. Their recent concerts seem to have broken down the walls between themselves and their audiences, more so than on previous tours where they kept themselves isolated from the crowd.
But it’s not just the fans appreciation that helps make the Green Day concert experience so rewarding. The band adds to the overall mix by using a live piano player on stage as well as various other instruments, including a saxophone. Green Day, unlike other bands, exhibits a great deal of appreciation for these musicians by getting them involved in the stage action. They are not left out in the dark or forced to play behind closed curtains.
Additional instruments and the group’s impish nature, aid in Green Day’s stage presence. It helps bring their performance to a level rarely seen or given by other bands during their concerts. Attending these concerts is better than listening to them at home. These three men, now in their late 30s, seem to exude natural talent and energy, especially Armstrong and Cool, who constantly push the envelope, and each in their own way.
Armstrong’s on-stage antics included everything from using a toilet paper gun and a T-shirt cannon, to launch things into the audience, to pulling children on stage from the pit below in order to “save them” from the surging audience. The best of these moments was when Armstrong plucked two audience members from the chaotic mass of people in the pit and hoisted them onstage to sing the bands’ oldie “Longview.”
Cool proved to be just as impish, as he and his other band mates dressed in costumes for their song, “King for a Day.” Decked out in an old lady hat and a red bra, Cool became playful and flirty with Armstrong as the two came precariously close to each other while singing into the same microphone. It’s great to see this sort of interaction between band mates. Most bands at this point in their careers either have broken up or have badly disrupted the band by developing massive egos. If Green Day ever does develop a big ego, it will probably share in it equally.
One problem with previous Green Day concerts, has always been that the band often fails to play it’s their lesser known material to their more mainstream fans. But this concert was different. This time they rewarded all of the fans by playing the song “Scattered.”
In this same spirit, one often wonders whether Green Day has sold out, or has become a band that represents something less punk and more sellout. The boys quickly proved this to be wrong though, as they launched into their potent brand of punk chaos. All hysteria broke loose when a crowd of fans jumped onto the stage and joined the band.
As the hysteria started to calm down towards the end of the concert, Armstrong returned back to the stage for a planned encore of one of the bands’ power ballads. He wrapped up the evening traditionally with their hit, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” It’s great to see Armstrong perform during these high energy moments, because it reminds a listener just how human and emotional he can be.
Good music, good personalities, and the wonderful energy of the crowd, make attending a Green Day concert, time well spent.