Saturday, August 26, 2017

Welcome to Paradise: A Green Day Night at the Friendly Confines is Quite a Blast -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Green Day
w/ opening act
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Wrigley Field, Chicago
August 24, 2017

It would be easy to be cynical about Green Day's show at Chicago's baseball shrine, Wrigley Field.

The once plucky trio who cut their teeth in bona fide Bay Area punk clubs are now middle-aged Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famers, playing perhaps the most iconic and populist of ballparks as a 6-piece touring band.

...without quite the drawing power to sell out Wrigley, even as the venerated venue summons more casual fans.

And while I have been an avid Green Day fan since Dookie exploded in 1994--it was actually their third album--and found 2004's American Idiot to be a brilliant reinvention that still stands as one of the best albums of the 21st Century, their output since has been largely hit or miss, including on 2016's Revolution Radio.

Having seen Green Day seven times prior, I consider them one of the best live bands ever, but also recognize their penchant to endlessly recycle the same old shtick.

This includes hyperkinetic singer Billie Joe Armstrong's propensity for shouting out "Chicago, Illinois!"--or whatever locale may be apt--bringing audience members onstage to sing and (separately) play guitar, and turning the mediocre "King for a Day" into a long production number complete with costumes, props and a segue into "Shout!" that also includes famed cover song singalongs (in this case "Satisfaction" and "Hey Jude").

For those who don't like the band, or even those who do, it might be easy to call: "Spinal Tap!"

I disagree with the overriding sentiment of this Consequence of Sound review of Thursday's show--that the sameness made it subpar--but think the critiques it makes are pretty fair, and actually similar to my common complaints about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

For all his verbose topical politicism--including jabs at President Trump--I felt Armstrong, who clearly seemed jazzed at playing Wrigley Field, missed chances to pay fun homage to the Cubs, whether in spoken word or song.

The setlist was filled with songs I enjoyed--including 5 tracks from Revolution Radio--but didn't feature anything special for the occasion, hewed exactly to that at prior tour stops and, as Consequence of Sound points out, stuck to the usual suspects without digging deeper into Green Day's terrific catalog.

Yet while I feel such points are legitimate, and would agree that Green Day hasn't continued to advance their art--on record or on stage--as much as hoped since American Idiot, the concert was such fun from beginning to end that not to award @@@@@ would belie my enjoyment in the moment.

As well as the universal feelings of at least a dozen friends, who were effusive in praise.

Like playing Madison Square Garden or headlining Lollapalooza/Bonnaroo/Coachella, performing at Wrigley Field has--over the past 10 years, since concerts have been permitted--become something of a rite of passage for the biggest rock and country acts. (Save for ones like U2 or the Rolling Stones, who can readily fill Soldier Field.)

Along with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, James Taylor and other classic rockers, Green Day's alt-rock brethren like Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters have filled the Friendly Confines in recent years.

And while the upper deck was a bit undersold, Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool--along with three tour musicians--proved they were up to the task.

The sound mix was a bit problematic on the opening "Know Your Enemy," but two new songs ("Bang Bang," "Revolution Radio") sounded strong leading into an early highlight, "Holiday" off American Idiot.

It was during this song that Armstrong yelled, "No racism! No sexism! No homophobia! And no Donald J. Trump," to a roar of the crowd.

Though its guitar intro sounds an awful lot like that of Oasis' "Wonderwall," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" came off well and I was glad when "Longview" finally started digging into Dookie, from which 5 songs would be played.

One of these, "Welcome to Paradise," had actually appeared on the preceding Kerplunk!, from which Green Day also performed "2000 Light Years Away" as Armstrong recalled playing a club in Elmhurst in 1991.

Looking at the Wrigley setlist now, which matches that of all recent shows, it's easy to wonder why Green Day completely ignores the fine Insomniac, which follows Dookie, or why the "King for a Day" / "Shout" medley gets such prominence.

Yet I think it's to the band's credit that they stick to the tried and true, and still sound sensational.

And I'd be lying to say singing the "Na na nah-nah-nah na" part of "Hey Jude" with the vast crowd, a few weeks after seeing Paul McCartney do so yet again, in a storied venue where I saw Sir Paul in 2011, didn't give me goose bumps.

Especially as I have a bit of a head cold, I think I can really just end this by saying Green Day at Wrigley Field was a great concert by a--still--great band on a great night.

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