After releasing the critically acclaimed rock opera American Idiot, Green Day graced the East Coast, offering a crowd of diverse ages an explosive live set of stunning theatrics and four-chord gems last Friday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. MTV darlings Sugarcult and New Found Glory warmed up the crowd, offering their brand of catchy, poppy songs. However, most college students and older attendees oozed into the arena’s seats and floor only when Green Day front-man Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool took their places on stage. The audience rocked the arena with grand applause once Billie Joe hammered the power chords of the band’s latest smash single “American Idiot” as an opener of the set. “American Idiot” was only a taste of the new batch of songs that the band would perform live that night. Like most concept albums done live, Green Day played a heavy amount of songs from their own rock opera, American Idiot.
They broke into the nearly nine-minute tune “Jesus of Suburbia,” followed by “Holiday,” which Billie Joe introduced as an anti-war song, as well as other new tunes “St. Jimmy” and the quiet, questioning tune “Are We Waiting.” Green Day barely paused for speeches or chatter while playing nearly half of their latest album in the beginning of their set. After playing half of American Idiot live, the trio launched into a block of old songs. The block began with “Hitchin’ a Ride” from 1997’s Nimrod, and “Basketcase” and “She” from 1994’s Dookie.
Nimrod’s “King For a Day” followed in the set, which featured Billie Joe in a purple cape and golden crown on stage, and a cover of “Knowledge” from the influential skapunk band Operation Ivy, a cover which appeared on Green Day’s first independent album 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. During the old songs, fans sang along, moshed, and pumped their fists in the air while the band jumped around on stage, energizing the crowd with their stage presence. It also wasn’t uncommon for Billie Joe to stop or slow down the songs halfway through to create a sing along with the audience or to talk and crack jokes on stage. During the trio’s cover of “Knowledge,” the band pulled on stage members of the crowd to play guitar, drums, and bass. On bass, Philadelphia Eagles player John Ritchie joined the band for the cover, and his appearance was met with roaring applause and approval.
Cheers and applause also rattled the venue when the stage theatrics and light displays continued through each song. Lights flashed different colors, and firecrackers boomed and banged on stage while the band played. A large Green Day sign hanging above the stage changed colors with each song. Along with taking time to perfect a solid rock album on American Idiot, it was clear that night that the band also took the time to plan for a dazzling stage show. The band was beckoned back to the stage for an encore by chants of “Green Day” from fans and thunderous applause.
The encore consisted of the mellow “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from the new album, “Minority” from 2000’s album Warning, and a rousing cover of Queen’s “We are the Champions,” relating to the rock opera theme the band has taken on. Perhaps the most intimate moment of the night came when Billie Joe strummed his final chords of the live set during the band’s biggest hit, the ballad “Good Riddance: Time of Your Life.”
Perhaps Green Day is an easy band to slam and attack for commercializing punk rock nearly a decade ago and playing arenas filled with teenagers, parents, and children, but their live show reaches out to fans, encouraging sing-alongs and audienceparticipation. The band even still plays songs from their pop-punk albums that were released on Lookout records before the trio tasted success, and they pay tribute to their punk rock heroes and friends, such as Operation Ivy or The Ramones, by covering such bands live. Maybe punk rock never belonged in arenas, but Green Day has progressed and grown beyond four-chord music.