Saturday, March 30, 2013

Call Me Pathetic, Call Me What You Will... but Green Day Still Rocks My World -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Green Day
w/ opening act Best Coast
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
March 28, 2013

The first time I saw Green Day, in 1995, I felt really old.

It was on their Insomniac tour, supporting the album following their breakout smash Dookie, itself actually the band's third album, not debut as often thought.

Having greatly enjoyed both albums--and even, out of sequence, their first two--at the age of 27 I went to the UIC Pavilion by myself and found that the majority of the crowd was significantly younger than me…except for a number of fathers accompanying teenage and younger children.

18 years later, in seeing Green Day for the 7th time, at the Allstate Arena on Thursday night, I again found myself well beyond the mean in terms of audience age, except for my two companions and, once again, the dads, who suddenly seemed to be in my demo, rather than 10-20 years older.

Some might see this as a sign that I should act my age and stop wearing black concert t-shirts and going to shows where virtually everyone in the solid-but-not-full crowd stood for the entire show except me and my friends who sat throughout (but could still see everything).

Sorry, but no, I say.

First of all, I long ago accepted being that slightly out-of-place misfit, but not really giving a shit. Yes, I'm no longer physically comfortable at SRO shows, but as long as I have a seat where I can sit at least occasionally, I imagine I'll be going to rock concerts for as long as I'm able to get to them.

Second, most of the concert acts I see are considerably older than me--Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, The Who, Leonard Cohen (who I saw recently), etc. and Bob Seger & Fleetwood Mac coming up--or at least in my age range: U2, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Radiohead, etc. Even the three core members of Green Day have now passed the 40 threshold.

Sure, if I knew of and loved any arena-sized rock acts in their 20s, I would go see them--and perhaps feel slightly more sheepish--but given the dearth of any truly great new bands, rock can no longer be considered primarily music for the young.

And third--as I wrote 9 years ago in a similarly themed and titled but much briefer review of a Green Day show--it would be a shame if I voluntarily stopped attending concerts like this due to any sense of bashfulness. For there are few things in life that give me more pleasure.

Yes, even following Billie Joe Armstrong's stint in rehab, supporting a trio of subpar albums--¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!--released within 5 months, having "gone Broadway" and, with 26 years having passed since their formation, far longer a run than any other punk rock band of their stature, as a live act Green Day is still that good.

Even if Thursday's show felt a smidgen lesser than the last Green Day gig I saw--in 2009 at the United Center--from beginning to end the band proved that they actively remain among the best rock 'n roll concert performers of all-time.

Following PA-pumping warm up songs paying homage to Queen ("Bohemian Rhapsody") and The Ramones ("Blitzkrieg Bop")--within the show, the band would play snippets from Ozzy Osbourne, Guns 'n Roses, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles--Green Day opened their 130-minute performance with "99 Revolutions" off ¡Tré!.

Four of the next six songs would also be from the recent trilogy of so-so albums that should've been combined into one stellar one. None of the these tunes, nor two subsequent newbies in Green Day's Allstate Arena setlist, were duds, but neither did they bring the excitement that the older songs would, particularly the 5 culled from Dookie and 6 off American Idiot, their two true masterpieces.

So the first 30-40 minutes weren't quite as "OMG!"--see, I can ineptly pretend to be young and hip--as they might have been, but once things truly kicked into high gear, Green Day was as awesome as ever.

Having seen four of the band's previous 21st century breakdowns, shtick like bringing fans onstage to sing (as in the "Longview" clip at bottom) and the foppish production number that has "King for a Day" segueing into a cover of "Shout" felt a tad tired, but far more so than contemporaries like Soundgarden, Weezer, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins and even Pearl Jam, Green Day deserves kudos for continually regenerating their audience, with seemingly as many high school fans at this show as there were in 1995 and again in 2004.

And even as he's hopefully quelled the personal demons that sidelined him late last year, Billie Joe Armstrong remains a phenomenally frenetic frontman, with childhood friend and bassist Mike Dirnt still literally and figuratively by his side.

It was also fun to see the ever-animated and powerful drummer Tre Cool still loving to entertain, and I appreciated the band going way back to the pre-Dookie albums--1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk!--for a few songs: "Disappearing Boy," "2000 Light Years Away" and "Going to Pasalacqua."

In addition to reflecting the impressive range of their musical influences, Green Day also reminded that their strain of social consciousness well-preceded 2004's American Idiot album by closing their main set with "Minority" off 2000's Warning

"American Idiot" was a perfect way to open the encores, and it was interesting that the band chose to follow it with the 9 minute "Jesus of Suburbia"--as on the album--without losing steam.

I really didn't miss the 'been there, done that...often' "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" as a show closer, but might have preferred something a bit more iconic than the recent "Brutal Love."

But even if I don't love ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!--individually or in sum--nor was I all that wowed by 2009's 21st Century Breakdown, I can't blame Green Day for serving up a good smattering of their latest material on yet another world tour.

After all, even if it's hard to believe 40-year-old arena rockers can still convincingly be called "punk," Billie Joe, Mike and Tre (along with three touring sidemen) did--once again--deliver a buoyantly crowd-pleasing show for the ages.

All of them.

Opening the show was Best Coast, a band from L.A. led by Bethany Cosentino. Although I recognized only one of their 11 songs--"When I'm With You," which I included on a year-end Best Of compilation a couple years back--even from the top of the balcony all the way across the arena, I thought they sounded terrific.

Based on the number of phone cameras seemingly continuously rolling on the General Admission floor, you likely can see the entire tour-opening Green Day concert on YouTube. This is a clip by "When I Come Around" and "Longview," posted by spinguy429:

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