The day after I saw my first Green Day show, I went to the boys’ locker room and changed out of my sweaty, district-issued gym clothes and back into my cargo shorts and brand-new American Idiot t-shirt.
“Why do you want to wear the same shirt that everybody else is wearing?” chided some girl I was only kind of friendly with. And to be fair, the halls of Peoria's Richwoods High School were a sea of black and red after the biggest rock band of 2005 visited our epitome of middle America.
This Green Day gear wasn’t the equivalent of frosted tips, though. It wasn’t about conformity -- it was about the community that Green Day have masterfully created around themselves throughout their 31-year career, a thread that continued at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center Saturday night. For over two hours on April Fool’s Day, mohawked twenty-somethings, suburban mothers with gaggles of 12-year-olds in tow, and probably even a few Republicans enjoyed the exact same thing.
In a world where record stores struggle to stay open because everyone’s favorite album is their custom Spotify playlist, physical gatherings of music fans in one place around a single point of obsession are increasingly important. They make powerful moments possible, like when lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong launched into a fiery tirade against “racism, sexism, homophobia, and walls,” to the cheers of the sold-out hockey arena.
That was during a particularly punchy rendition of American Idiot’s “Holiday,” a song written to denounce Bush-era warmongering but also appropriate now that the biggest reality TV star of that period has taken his place. If the presence of seven of that landmark record’s twelve tunes in the setlist was lost on anyone in attendance, Armstrong let out a full-throated “Fuck you, Donald Trump!” in the middle of the 2004 album’s title track, which opened the encore.
The performances of those two American Idiot megahits, along with deeper cuts like “Letterbomb” and “Jesus of Suburbia,” were highlights of the night. And yet, when a band plays more from an old record than from the one it’s currently promoting, it diminishes the current material and makes it seem like they don’t believe in the new songs as much as they should. After all, this is the Revolution Radio tour, and while the score was close at seven songs to six, Green Day’s twelfth album has a high enough batting average that songs like “Are We the Waiting” and “St. Jimmy” could ride the bench until the inevitable American Idiot 20th anniversary tour and make way for newer tracks like “Too Dumb to Die.”
The half-dozen Revolution Radio numbers that did make the cut stood alongside the trio’s back catalog just fine. First single “Bang Bang” and the title track were trotted out early, setting a tone of energy and urgency that persisted until the house lights came on two hours later. “Youngblood,” with its built-in Minnesota reference, proved that the band can revert back their pre-political selves and write pop-punk hooks with the best of them, while crossover hit “Still Breathing” and multi-part epic “Forever Now” provided a stunning finale to the main set.
Even among all of these 21st century breakdowns, there was still plenty of room for Green Day’s pre-millennium output. The group -- rounded out by founding bassist Mike Dirnt and longtime drummer Tre Cool officially and featuring three touring members -- reached all the way back to 1992’s Kerplunk! for “2,000 Light Years Away.” Their 1994 breakthrough LP, the 20-million-selling Dookie, was well-represented, inspiring mass sing-a-longs on “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” and “Longview.” The 172-second “Hitchin’ a Ride” (from 1997’s Nimrod) swelled to over seven minutes on stage, thanks to unnecessary crowd-pleasing bits (“Which side of the arena can cheer louder?”), but was a ripping jam at its core.
As the final strains of “Jesus of Suburbia”’s last of five movements echoed throughout the hall, everyone but Armstrong exited stage left, leaving just the 45-year-old and his guitar. He closed the night beautifully with a pair of acoustic numbers, Revolution Radio’s ode to easing into middle age, “Ordinary World,” and a perennial contender for senior class song at every high school in America, Nimrod’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
I don’t know about life, but I’d go out on a limb and say that Saturday’s show was the time of my month. It was an event that will be tough for April to beat, but did I buy a Revolution Radio t-shirt?
Hell no, man. Everybody and their mom are wearing one today.
The Opener: Green Day ruffled feathers with a certain sect of the populace in 1994 when they hand-selected openly gay rock band Pansy Division to open their first headlining tour as a mainstream act. Their stance with the LGBT community is no less clear nearly a quarter of a century later, as Against Me! has accompanied the band on their current jaunt across the United States. The Florida quartet is fronted by Laura Jane Grace, a transgender woman who made headlines with her decision to transition in 2012. They put on an electric opening set, mainly showcasing material from last year’s Shape Shift with Me, but also mixing in a couple of numbers from back when Laura was calling herself Tom Gabel, such as the 2010 radio hit “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.”
Random Notebook Dump: T-shirt cannons have no place at a punk show. Kid Rock concerts? Sure. Timberwolves games? Definitely. That’s the kind of stuff Green Day should have been shunned from the Bay Area punk scene for the mid-nineties, not for simply striking it rich. Speaking of things that have worn out their welcome at Green Day gigs, Armstrong said “Let me hear you say “Hey, oh!” 21 times, in addition to other variations on the same theme.
Also, we Bruce Springsteen diehards have tired of the ubiquity of wedding-band standard “Shout” at his shows, and I can’t believe Green Day hardcores feel any differently.
Know Your Enemy
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
2,000 Light Years Away
Hitchin’ a Ride
When I Come Around
Are We the Waiting
King for a Day
Shout/Always Look on the Bright Side of Life/(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction/Hey Jude
Jesus of Suburbia
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)