It has been just around ten years since the CD that in my opinion is the essential punk rock album for people born during the mid to late '80s, Dookie, was released. Just like anyone at that time, the first time I saw the video for “Longview” I was hooked and I knew I loved it. Ten years, three albums, one greatest hits, and one B-sides collection later Green Day is about to release their newest epic known as American Idiot. But before that as many of you know they planned a small four date club tour in which they would play their entire new album in it’s entirety for all to hear and enjoy.
Upon hearing that Green Day, a band I have never seen in a smaller venue than the Tweeter Center, was coming to Chicago and would be playing The Vic Theater, a venue that holds only 1,200 people, I knew I had to be there. Waiting in line for two and a half hours outside the theater a week prior seemed like nothing for me. Luckily I was able to get tickets to a show that sold out in less than ten minutes.
Once arriving at the Vic I saw a line that wrapped down the street a block and then around the corner another block. The line was probably the most diverse I have seen in some time. There was small punk rockers about the age of 10-13 years old (parents right besides them of course), people my age (19-23) who thanks to Green Day have been able to explore other great bands in the “punk” genre, as well as your frat guys who I’m sure still pop in Dookie in between their Dave Matthews band and G-Unit CDs.
After waiting around a half an hour I was finally inside and went right to the ground floor of the theater. From where I was at that time was about 15 feet from the stage and I was in the near back of the line. I looked up to see a giant “American Idiot” banner behind Tre Cool's drum set and as more people began to file in the crowd started to get more and more anxious clapping and shouting for Green Day. Then at 8 pm the lights went out, I was pushed all the way to the front of the rail and Green Day came on stage.
But it wasn’t just Green Day who came on. As many of you probably know on the new album there are a few more instruments on this CD - piano, horns, a lot more backup, a few more guitars, and even some extra drums. Nevertheless, as Billie Joe, Mike and Tre came out you could tell they were very pumped about getting to play this new material for everyone. Billie Joe being the constant showman that he is jumped on one of the monitors, guitar in the air, and started yelling at everyone in excitement. The crowd loved every minute of it and roared right back. With that Billie started to strum the opening chords of “American Idiot” and a night at the punk rock opera had begun.
This being the single most of the crowd knew the song and screamed along with every word. Mid way through the song Billie started his classic crowd taunting and had everyone sing a long with his “Heeeeeyyyyy Ooooooooo’s” Then without missing a beat the band went right back into the song even letting the crowd take lead vocals for the line “It’s going out to Idiot America.”
Next up Billie announced to the crowd that we were all at the official “American Idiot Release party” and with that the band started into the nine-minute epic that is “Jesus of Suburbia”
As the band continued to play on right along in order of the album the crowd loved every minute. Knowing that most of the people didn’t know the album yet, Green Day made sure to put everything they had into this set so the crowd would be up and alive. Tre Cool did his typical crazy faces and head bobbing throughout the set and Mike as always was jumping and playing the bass with the snotty punk rock attitude. Of course Billie Joe was doing his normal rock star routine throughout the show, which I and no one else could get enough of. Picking up the microphone stand, climbing on the monitors and singing every line to perfection. As I watched him I couldn’t help but think of other great bands with front mans, of course the Rolling Stones and Queen came to mind (of the old school era) but I started to think that Green Day was right up there with those bands as far as live performances go.
As the band played “St. Jimmy,” Billie let another take control of the guitar as he grabbed the mic and stared spinning on the ground and yelling the song to the amazing crowd.
Right before the band played the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” Billie shouted, “This one's for Johnny” Referring to the Ramones member that passed away a few days earlier.
As the set came to a close red and black confetti was shot into the air and the band took their bows and left the stage.
As the crowd cheered and cheered for an encore Tre Cool came back and started to play the all-familiar beat to the song that we all fell in love with, “Longview.” As the bass line kicked, in the place went nuts. What made seeing this song even better was that only the three members were on the stage just like it used to be. Billie Joe even brought out his old blue sticker filled fender strat. Also, hearing 1,200 people shout “Masturbation” was a funny thing to hear. The band didn’t let up as they kicked into “Brain Stew” followed by the fast and energy filled “Platypus (I Hate You)” from the Nimrod album. As the band started to play the song “Minority” I started to wonder when we would hear more classic “heeeeyyyyy oooooo” shouts from Billie Joe. Sure enough, in the middle of that song Billie started the “heeeyyy ooooo” chant while holding the “heeyy” note of at least what seemed like sixty seconds. After around five minutes of the crowd being responsive to him, Billie brought out the harmonica and played along to the poppy “Minority.”
But all good things must come to an end and Green Day ended this show with style, by closing with the Queen classic “We are the Champions.” With Tre jumping up and down slamming his drums and mike doing back up vocals along with the other 1,200 people, the band closed the set and left everyone in the place remembering why they first fell in love with Green Day in the first place.
In a music scene right now filled with more of the same of everything and changing their music to the “popular sound” right now, Green Day was and is a band that always stayed true to themselves and only cared what the each other thought. Green Day wasn’t the first in punk rock but they are one of the best. Anyone who was at this show in Chicago or was in California, New York, or Toronto on this tour should feel privileged that they got to see one of the best--not only punk bands, but rock bands ever.