Right off the bat, let me say one thing: I would not be writing this article if it wasn’t for Green Day. Like so many others before me, Dookie and American Idiot allowed me to think critically about my experiences as a teenager, and encouraged me transcend the liminal space of a casual music listener to transition into a disciple of punk rock, and music in general. Needless to say, when I was granted the opportunity to cover Green Day’s Revolution Radio tour stop at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena (the penultimate rock concert to be held at the arena before its demolition), I was chomping at the bit… and put professionalism aside almost immediately.
When I arrived at the press entrance, I was greeted with a scene that felt straight out of Being John Malkovich, where I was quickly ushered through a locked door into a secret will call area to speak to a woman who disappeared into a completely different room to find my ticket. The ticket I received indicated that I had been placed in a seat in the arena’s lower bowl, which certainly wasn’t good enough for me: I was there to see my favorite band of all time, the one that inspired me to do… well, everything. Luckily, I already had planned for this potential unfortunate reality, and had figured out a trick that would grant me easy access to the floor section, merely feet from the stage. Crisis averted; mission accomplished!
Against Me! kicked off the night at 8 PM sharp, busting out cuts from their amazing 2016 effort Shape Shift With Me as well as rousing renditions of tracks from their instant-classic 2014 breakthrough record Transgender Dysphoria Blues. I hadn’t seen Laura Jane Grace and co. live since that 2014 tour, and the set was as tight as ever, with Grace taking a second to thank Green Day for bringing them out on tour and citing their inspiration in her — and all of our — punk upbringings. “I know someone will leave this show and go home and start a band and change the f**king world,” she said to a round of cheers and applause.
I continued my unprofessional streak about halfway through Against Me!’s set, when I waved to Grace from the back of the standing room section, and she flashed a toothy grin back at me. While I was surrounded by many who were unfamiliar with Against Me! and Grace’s incredibly powerful story, their set definitely left an immediate impression.
After Against Me!’s equipment was swiftly moved from the stage, it wasn’t long before Green Day’s signature “Drunk Bunny” mascot ran out to pump up the crowd, staggering and falling down as it did so. Finally, the Bunny collapsed, and was dragged off the stage by a roadie, and the lights went out. Then, as Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” blasted over the PA, the one and only Green Day took the stage… and I proceeded to lose my damn mind.
Billie Joe Armstrong is known for pulling fans onstage to help him play his songs, and it wasn’t long after the band launched into the 21st Century Breakdown cut “Know Your Enemy” that I wasn’t chosen to do the honors despite my best efforts to get noticed. Instead, a young man stood on the end of the catwalk in the middle of the arena singing the track’s bridge before Armstrong brought him back to the stage and told him to run into a stage dive, where the crowd carried him to the back.
Green Day spent the next two and a half hours running through a good chunk of their nearly 30-year catalogue, comprised mostly of selections from Dookie, American Idiot, and Revolution Radio. However, there was also some sprinklings of tracks for the “old school Green Day fans,” like Kerplunk!‘s “2000 Light Years Away” and (one of my personal favorites) Nimrod‘s “Hitchin’ A Ride.” Throughout the show, Armstrong ventured out many times onto the catwalk, where he looked fans right in the face as they screamed his lyrics back to him, myself included.
While Armstrong continually emphasized the power of unity and sticking together throughout the set, he did take a few jabs at our current presidential administration, even yelling “F**k you, Donald Trump” during the bridge of the notorious anti-Bush anthem “American Idiot.” Even after nearly thirty years of being a band, Green Day still gives every show 150%, despite Armstrong’s ever-worsening chest cold that had him hacking and spitting up phlegm in between — and sometimes during — songs.
By the end of the second encore, I was drenched in sweat — both my own and others — with a hoarse voice and arms sore from trying to reach out to Bille Joe Armstrong, someone I have looked up to since I was old enough to be a somewhat cohesive, sentient member of society. As the final notes of “Good Riddance” faded into the night and confetti rained down on top of us, I looked in front of me to see a father and his young son standing in matching Green Day hats with their arms around each other, reveling at the events of the previous few hours. I thought back to when I was the son’s age and I stole my friend’s copy of American Idiot after listening to it for the first time. I considered how far I’ve come, and where I still have left to go.
And I have Green Day to thank for all of it.
Green Day Setlist:
1. “Know Your Enemy”
2. “Bang Bang”
3. “Revolution Radio”
6. “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”
9. “2000 Light Years Away”
10. “Hitchin’ a Ride”
11. “When I Come Around”
15. “Are We the Waiting”
16. “St. Jimmy”
17. “Knowledge” (Operation Ivy cover)
18. “Basket Case”
20. “King for a Day”
21. “Shout / Always Look on the Bright Side of Life / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction / Hey Jude”
22. “Still Breathing”
23. “Forever Now”
24. “American Idiot”
25. “Jesus of Suburbia”
26. “Ordinary World”
27. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
Green Day is on tour for much of the remainder of 2017. Check out a full list of dates on their website.