Album Review: Green Day’s ‘Awesome as F**k’

If I were to write a Twitter review of Green Day”s live album/DVD “Awesome as Fuck” and keep it within the 140-character limit, it would simply read, “Go buy ‘Awesome as Fuck” on March 22. It”s great.”

Live albums seldom work as anything other than audio scrapbooks for already existing fans, but if any concert set has the potential to convert new fans, “Awesome as Fuck” stands a darn good chance. 

From the opening salvo of “21st Century Breakdown,” the title track from the trio”s last studio album, to the closing notes of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” (which, for better or worse, has become Green Day”s equivalent of Garth Brooks” “The Dance”: a benediction to send attendees off into the good night), “Awesome As Fuck”  will delight listeners. The band”s energy, and lead singer Billie Joe Armstong”s manic stage presence, is palpable.

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The adrenaline rush of “21st Century Breakdown” builds through the first four songs like a freight train picking up speed. When the energy threatens to flag, such as on the piano-based intro of  “Viva La Gloria” or “21 Guns,” Armstrong exhorts the crowd to put their hands up.  Others have claimed the title before, but as fans knows, he really is the hardest working man in show business during the time he is on the stage.

Much of the set, recorded during the band”s 2009-2010 tour, concentrates on tunes from “21st Century Breakdown” and “American Idiot,” but Green Day reaches back into its catalog for tunes like 1995″s frenetic “Burnout.” There are also deep cuts like “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)” and “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield.” Even if they aren”t well known to the casual fan as the hits, they are performed with such verve, they”re soon to be favorites. The set also includes a well-received debut, “Cigarettes & Valentines,” which the band introduced to a fervent Phoenix audience.

The stage patter is kept to the minimum and the rock and roll to the maximum. Tre Cool”s drumming is stellar throughout and helps keep Armstrong tethered during those moments when it sounds like he is so hyped up he could levitate off stage. (Just listen to him come delightfully unhinged during “American Idiot” and you’ll see what we mean.)

The faster numbers do better here. In fact, they provide such an energy rush that anyone trying to give up caffeine should use this as their morning jolt.

Green Day’s live show has only improved over the years. The musicianship has grown, but the band also knows that they are there to entertain and their enthusiasm is incredibly infectious here.