What to make of Green Day?
The Oakland, Calif., trio-turned-ensemble is far removed from the days of Dookie, their second overall but first major label album, and the one that most of us first heard them on.
They’ve since given us soulful ballads, increasing political and social commentary, and even crafted a coming musical stage version of their 2004 hit album, American Idiot — hardly befitting the green-haired punks we first got attached to.
So, what’s wrong with growing up? Because that’s what this band has done. One listen to their latest, 21st Century Breakdown, and it’s quickly evident that they’ve mastered the catchy hook, the pop-metal turnaround, and the all-important sing-along chorus. Green Day just makes good music, even if it now pops up in movie soundtracks.
Take last night’s show at Madison Square Garden, the last of their two-night set at MSG.
(photo courtesy of greenday.com)
Obviously, the band delivered the obligatory songs on their set list — a virtual greatest hits from a band with plenty to spare. But this is also a band that knows how to pay homage.
Amid the hits last night they also performed Pete Townsend’s eight-minute 1966 mini rock opera, “A Quick One While He’s Away,” which Townsend has often described as “Tommy’s parent” referring to his eventual and classic rock opera. It’s a bonus track on some editions of 21st Century.
But where did that come from?
There were also playfull moments where Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong led the band into classic rock riffs and flirted with tunes as varied as Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and cliche hits of old like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
Here’s the point: These guys still love what they do, and still can improvise on stage. On Monday night they had thrown in a medley that included Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” and Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
So while the set list is necessarily scripted, Green Day can still go outside the box. Yes, the pyrotechnics are over the top, with everything from confetti cannons to fire balls and repeated colorful explosions overhead and surrounding Tre Cool’s drum kit.
But the music is solid and you get the genuine sense that these guys still love what they do. And that’s important to be convincing on stage.
Green Day has also carved its niche with a heavy focus on audience participation, repeatedly giving fans a chance to share the stage and even enlisting three would-be musicians from the crowd to take over drum, bass and guitar duties.
So, with Billie Joe pushing 40 this isn’t the young brash band that brought us “Basket Case.” This is a rock band that has honed their skills and learned how to write and play music with greater effect. And they can still deliver with the same swagger they started out with.
Go see these guys.
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