“They’re still around?” was the comment I got the most often in the few days leading to the show, when I told people I was going to see Green Day. Which is strange, even though their last Montreal visit was in 2010. In the meantime, there was the “American Idiot” musical, a trio of albums (“Uno”, “Dos” “Tré”) that admittedly made so low an impression that the band only played one song off of them, and last year’s excellent “Revolution Radio”, of which 6 tracks were played. And, you know, they were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame two years ago. So they weren’t twiddling their thumbs.
But obviously, the band never flew off their true fans’ radar, judging by the close to sold out crowd at the Bell Centre. A Green Day concert is an interactive event: frontman Billie Joe Armstrong makes numerous requests to sing along, shout along, and each and everyone of them was answered loudly by the fans. When Armstrong asked if there were old school Green Day fans in the house, it felt like every available hand went up, even though a sizeable portion of the crowd probably wasn’t born when “Dookie” came out. The band also brings audience participation to the next level, with 3 fans picked out of the crowd to play or sing with the band, including an 11-year old guitar player who received Armstrong’s guitar as a gift.
The show kicked off energetically with “Know Your Enemy” from “21st Century Breakdown”, unfortunately their sole offering from this excellent record. They followed with “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” from their latest, two tracks that showed that the band can still write great anthemic pop punk songs. “Holiday”, “Letterbomb” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, from the classic “American Idiot”, took the crowd to overdrive, a state it stayed in for the rest of the two and a half hour concert.
Seven tracks from “American Idiot” were played, and it was obvious that a record that served as a hate letter to the Bush era was still sadly relevant today. And in case the point was lost by some, Armstrong made it clear with comments like “I won’t name any names, but Donald Trump is a fucking asshole”. The crowd agreed wholeheartedly it seemed.
Their breakthrough album “Dookie” provided five tracks to the setlist, including the classic “When I Come Around” which hadn’t been played in Montreal since 1995 (!). Songs like “She”, “Basket Case” or “Longview” haven’t aged much in those 23 years, and that’s true of the entire band. Billie Joe Armstrong never stops, pacing the stage and singing his heart out throughout the evening. Drummer Tré Cool is the band’s blue haired court jester behind the kit, never missing a beat while putting on a show of his own with his antics. And let’s not forget bassist Mike Dirnt, whose relentless bass lines drive the songs along with an effortless precision. The band is now fleshed out with guitarist Jason White, keyboard player Jason Freese and rhythm guitarist Jeff Matika, and their impact on the band’s sound is essential,
Particularly interesting was a medley of covers that included the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, with the crowd singing along to these classic songs, from an era when rock bands believed they could change the world. And in that regard, Green Day’s concert is a throwback to a time when a rock show was a communion between musicians and fans, when dreams of a better world fuelled the music. Oh and the band wasn’t stingy on pyrotechnics either, with explosions and flame throwers sing off all night long.
For the first encore, the band played a one two punch of “American Idiot” followed by the fantastic “Jesus of Suburbia”. Billie Joe Armstrong came back out with an acoustic guitar to play solo versions of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, to conclude the two and a half hour, high energy concert on a more subdued note.
Florida’s Against Me! opened the evening, with a nice melodic pop/punk. The songwriting often seemed not quite there, but the band’s energy on stage was greater and they played a solid set to warm up the crowd.
Know Your Enemy
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
2000 Light Years Away
Hitchin’ a Ride
When I Come Around
Are We the Waiting
King for a Day
Oh Danny Boy / Careless Whisper / 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)