Going to your first "concert" more or less in three years is a very, very strange and unsettling experience. In the summer of 2002, I'd attended that year's Pop Disaster, which, as many of you may recall, featured the two biggest names in pop-punk, Green Day and Blink-182, with Saves The Day on support for my area of the stop. It was at Jones Beach Amphitheater, a rather large, outdoor venue perfect for hosting the giants of the genre, and while I enjoyed the concert immensely, it would be my last one of that size for a long time. By the time I'd seen Rise Against a month later or so, I was basically settled into the habit of seeing bands up close and personal in intimate nightclubs and moderately sized bars. Imagine straying from that setting for nearly three years, only to be thrown into what's essentially the largest scale possible: an NFL stadium. Every little detail made it the perfect metaphor for moving from a small, rural, one-horse town to the busiest city in North America; the 60,000 parents, college students, and fresh-faced, Green Day shirt-clad youngsters were the same people swarming about the city sidewalks; the hundred or so kranky employees running the several dozen food stands were the same ones weaving yellow taxis in and out of bustling, smokey streets; the circular upper tiers making up the top of Giants Stadium were the same as the buildings tall enough to make any remotely curious passerby crane their neck to view the skyward architecture. To go from clear visibility of the performers you've paid to see, to watching Tic Tac-sized objects dance about a stage a quarter mile away is a mindblowing deviation. If I'd been living in and out of whistlestops for three years, East Rutherford, NJ's Giants Stadium was indeed my abrupt reentrance to the big city.
As such, watching openers and personal favorites Against Me! take the stage was outright bizzarre. Tom Gable's face adorned the fifty-foot, perhaps plus, screens as he ruggedly sang the lyrics for cuts such as "Problems" and new single "Don't Lose Touch" (both taken from the forthcoming Searching For A Former Clarity) and "Sink, Florida, Sink" (2003's As The Eternal Cowboy). Six others were played, with a majority from SFAFC, but it seemed as if very few in the crowd knew the words to past material, so composing a set list for this show probably wasn't too stressful. The band didn't seem to crack under pressure, playing focused and readily audible through the gigantic sound system the Meadowlands provided the Gainesville four-piece. While the majority of the crowd probably went home without even the band's name making a lasting impression in their respective minds, I at least enjoyed myself, if not in a really awkward fashion.
Jimmy Eat World was, well, Jimmy Eat World. If you like JEW, you'll like JEW live. If you love JEW, you'll love JEW live. I've come to realize that sugary emo pop-rock of this kind can grate on me a bit with too many tablespoons following another, but the band provided an enjoyable set of tunes, with Jim Adkins looking tense at all the right moments as if a music video was being shot on site. "Sweetness" and "The Middle" got some good reactions.
And then it was time for a ridiculous display of light and sound with Green Day's set. Things kicked off with "American Idiot" and "Jesus Of Suburbia," fireworks going off as the song came to a close. During any fast moments, a guitar-less Billie Joe would run rampant across the stage. "Holiday" (with the necessary intro "this song is not anti-American, it is anti-...war!" *cue fireworks*) and "Are We The Waiting" followed shortly thereafter. "Longview" kicked off the band's foray into older material, which eventually ended up including "Basket Case," "Hitchin' A Ride" (complete with a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" in the bridge), an enjoyable rendition of "She" and "Brain Stew / Jaded" among others. As usual, BJ had total control of the crowd, commanding the usual round of "hey-oh!s" and "uhh-ohh!s". They never left the tips of his fingers, which the audience couldn't have appreciated much after BJ threw his hand down his pants, carressed his crotch vigorously and moaned in pleasure (the video screen closed up on this action to make sure we were all aware of just what his hand was doing). Dry-humping the floor didn't come until the "a little bit softer now" / "you been so good to me" bridge in "Shout." During another bridge, BJ brought out the water hose to spray the audience with, bringing up what had to be the goofiest looking kid in attendance to help out. "St. Jimmy" provided one of the more 'punk rock' moments and allowed BJ to really run up and down the sides of the stage. Additionally on stage with the band was 2nd guitarist Jason White (Pinhead Gunpowder, the Influents), Jason Freese on keys and trumpet (I'm almost positive this is Josh's brother), and several other fellows handling the brass section for "King For A Day" and "Knowledge." Speaking of which, during their requisite cover of the OpIvy classic (which very few in the crowd seemed to know the words to), they did the usual, bringing up three members of the audience to play the instruments for the breakdown of the song. Surprisingly, a 30-year-old-ish woman was chosen for guitar (she performed admirably, as did the drummer who seemed to hit even all the double-taps well, while the bassist was competent if not a bit sloppy), and subsequently given it after the song. After "Minority" masqueraded as the end of things, the encore involved a pretty shocking kick-off with "Maria" (one of the International Superhits! "bonus tracks"), which only one person seemed to know the lyrics to, with "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," and then the arena rock pseudo-wrapup in Queen's "We Are The Champions." After all the on-stage equipment was given the rock star treatment (destroyed), a lone guitar remained, and BJ on the stage all by his lonesome played "Good Riddance" to close it out, unto which a 5-10 minute fireworks display were given.
My initial thoughts in that introductory paragraph weren't the least bit exaggerated, as this turned out to be the largest North American show Green Day has thus played in their 16 years of a band. So while it was enjoyable to never be moments away from complete dehydration and always within short reach of fresh oxygen, and relishing the opportunity to leave sweat-free, it was still weird to have the intimacy of a club show stripped right from me. But in the very least, it was a solid trio of acts, and it was interesting to see the opener(s) on a scale that large.