Last night, Victoria and I had the privledge of being ticket holders to the Green Day show that sold out in 30 seconds. For those of you who are currently living under a rock, Green Day is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland this Saturday, April 18th, so they decided to surprise fans by throwing together a show at the House of Blues on April 16th.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect going into the show because prior to last night, I had never been to a Green Day concert before. The minute we arrived, we were greeted by intense security and a line that wrapped around the House of Blues an hour before doors. After waiting and waiting to be let in, Victoria and I sprinted our way to the front of the pit and were lucky enough to be standing dead center in front of the stage. As people packed into the tiny House of Blues venue like sardines, you could tell the anticipation was rising. This was Green Day’s first show in a year, so we found ourselves surrounded by people from all over the country and world who flocked to Cleveland to see them; there are only a handful of bands that can garner that kind of dedicated fan base.
At exactly 8:00, Jesse Malin took the stage and opened the show with a loud, powerful, and catchy 30 minute set that got the crowd pumped for the long night to come. As my eyes darted from the band to Armstrong’s wife dancing backstage, I could tell that Green Day put in a lot of consideration when choosing their opener. Jesse Malin’s music was similar to Green Day’s in that the lyrics were jam packed full of meaning and were carried by an infectious beat that permeated through the crowd.
By the time Jesse Malin left the stage, the crowd became uncontrollably restless. About half of the people surrounding me had no idea who Sweet Children was until they actually spotted Billie Joe backstage getting ready to come on. For those of you who don’t know, Sweet Children was Green Day before Green Day was Green Day. Sweet Children was formed in 1986 with Armstrong, Dirnt, and Kiffmeyer, but in 1988 the band adopted the name Green Day; in the early 90s, Tré Cool replaced drummer John Kiffmeyer. Last night, however, Armstrong resurrected Sweet Children in its entirety. Armstrong, Dirnt, and Kiffmeyer graced Cleveland with an hourlong tribute to Green Day’s roots; Armstrong’s choice to put Kiffmeyer back behind the drums last night was, in the words of Chuck Yarborough, “Class with a capital C”. Without Kiffmeyer, Green Day’s foundation would not have existed, so an ode to their humble beginnings just days before their induction to the Hall of Fame was a well-planned homage.
Now, for the moment everyone had been waiting weeks for; Green Day. Obviously, everyone had expectations for the night, but I don’t think anyone ever expected Armstrong to play song after song with both Sweet Children and Green Day for over three hours. From 8:45 until 12:15, the crowd was treated to every single Sweet Children/Green Day hit one could ever wish to hear live. Despite the insanity that took over fans in the mosh pit, the crowd was respectful and popcorn kernels of human beings only popped their way over our head’s every other song. Since Green Day’s music has been alive and well for 25 years now, nearly every person in the audience was able to sing along to each song and at one point Armstrong even brought a fan onstage to sing into the mic. The bursting energy that both the band and the crowd maintained throughout the night seemingly never faded and probably never would have had the show gone on.
I could go on and on about Armstrong’s charisma and ease on stage by pointing to a number of examples — his several outfit changes, use of audience-provided props like hats, bunny ears, and sunglasses, or his mediation of a fight that broke out mid-song — but none of this rhetoric would do any justice to the actual act of seeing it live. The life that Armstrong and the rest of Green Day bring to the stage is something that can’t be described in words; when you’re at a Green Day concert it’s hard not to stop and think about life as whole. Yes, everything I am saying right now sounds unbelievably corny, but when you take the time to listen to the social and political commentary in Green Day’s lyrics juxtaposed to their all-encompassing rhythms and melodies, it’s impossible not to think about the messed-up, beautiful world that we live in. When you’re being smashed up against the barricade in a sea full of sweaty humans whose holy doctrine is every Green Day album, it’s easy to fall victim to the religion that is Green Day.
Congratulations to the band for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, God knows you deserve it.
(Photos courtesy of Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)