Green Day - Live in New York City (Cover Artwork)

Green Day

Live in New York City (2016)

live show

October 8th was a busy Saturday night for New York City punks. At least three big-name shows were in town: Strike Anywhere, A Global Threat, and War on Women were at St. Vitus in Brooklyn; Descendents, Fucked Up, and Night Birds were at the Playstation Theater in Times Square; and Green Day were at Webster Hall downtown. It was a dreary day with no sign of sunshine: cloudy in the morning and drizzly in the afternoon. By 6:30, when my brother and I found our way to the back of Webster Hall’s entry line, which stretched around two corners to the elusive 4th Avenue and East 12th Street, it was dark and the rain had steadied, yet the chill of fall had spared us. Still, summer (September), it seemed, had ended.

The night before, I caught most of Green Day’s set at Rough Trade NYC, the 250-capacity venue behind the English record chain’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn location. I expected to hear the new album, Revolution Radio, or more than just the 4 songs they had been playing from it on this warm-up run, since the 7th was its official day of release. No such luck. To my surprise they played 90% early-days deep cuts. It was the loosest I’d ever seen them play, going back to the Pop Disaster tour in 2002. When I walked into the show (late, due to not being able to get down with the shop’s we-don’t-care-if-you’re-a-schoolteacher-in-the-Bronx-you-gotta-purchase-the-record-here-in-the-store-at-11-in-the-morning-that-day-or-else entry policy, but for free), the boys were just finishing “One for the Razorbacks” (sic)[*]. The crowd roared and then Billie Joe said, “This is fun, right? We need fun right now. It’s like, you walk around outside and you listen to the news, and I turn around and I look at you guys and I’m like, “Thank God!” That’s kind of what seeing these shows and “Revolution Radio” represent to me. Much like it is with Descendents and Strike Anywhere – thank God both fans and band have stuck around. Times are bad but we’re still together. If nothing else, we celebrated that.

Asian Man Records duo Dog Party had been the support act for most of these smaller shows Green Day had been playing, but Webster Hall (1,500-capacity) was reserved for New York’s own Jesse Malin. I love Jesse but was disappointed by that decision. I’d liked to have seen a younger band play with them. When Green Day played a similarly-sized venue just around the way from Webster Hall in 2012, Lipstick Homicide were the openers. The entry line moved at a crushingly slow pace that night forcing a good portion of the crowd to miss them. On this night, the line moved fairly well, but whereas my ticket said that doors opened at 6 and the show started at 7, I got word from a friend inside at 7:01 that Jesse’s set was ending. We walked in soon after that, but by that time the stage was being set for East Bay punk’s most famous stoners.

The 31-song set lasted over two hours. No pyrotechnics, no backdrop, no stage props, no fancy light show. Just Billie Joe, Mike, Tré, Jason White, Jason Freese, and Jeff Matika. Around 7:30, the lights dimmed and “Bohemian Rhapsody” made its way through the PA, as per usual. We sang and conducted ourselves in unison until the last echoes the gong segued into “Blitzkrieg Bop” and the infamous Pink Bunny petered out from the side of the stage. I was intrigued to notice he wasn’t holding a beer bottle and stumbling across the stage, but rather soberly conducting our chants of “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!” and raised fists. At song’s end, the band walked onstage to the theme of Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and then it was on.

I’ve always considered “Know Your Enemy” to be a middling song on record, but it gets people jumping pretty quickly. The “gimme gimme revolution” lyric (the final verse was sung by a fan brought on stage) toward the end put a bow on the 1-2 punch of “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” that followed it. The former could be played in a dank basement and it would sound the same way it did at this show. Mike’s bright, but thick and crisp basslines have never sounded this good on top of Tré’s pounding tumble. Let it be known that the second reason Billie Joe works a crowd as well as he does is because of the rhythm section behind him.

A trio of American Idiot favorites, “Holiday,” “Letterbomb,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” brought the room to a boil. During the bridge in “Holiday,” when the lights went out and Bill held up his single spotlight and put it on the crowd, it struck me that what makes him such a compelling front man is how he combines spectacle and soul with aggression and humor, like a lovechild between Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Jello Biafra. “We will not watch the news. We will not be on social media. We’re in our own little underground now,” he told us.

At this point in the set, there was something of a reprisal of the previous night. “Longview,” “Private Ale,” “Armatage Shanks,” and “Stuart and the Ave.” were played right in a row. Fans up front called for “86,” prompting Billie to ask Tré and Mike if they knew it. They decided they didn’t but gave us “409 in Your Coffeemaker” instead. It looked like they were barely breaking a sweat, just busting out gem after gem, but everyone in the pit was in the process of getting soaked. Whether it was the palm-muted ending of “One of My Lies” or the rich tone of Mike’s fills in “Brat,” everything sounded ageless. It was heartening to see the band embrace their back catalog in such a refreshing way. They’ve always taken requests, but set list audibles have sometimes been predictable: “2,000 Light Years Away,” “Going to Pasalacqua,” or “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?”. It was good to hear other songs, especially the “Christie Road” to “Burnout” medley. 

Nimrod and Warning were represented by “Nice Guys Finish Last,” “Scattered” (now featuring a harmonica solo), “Hitchin’ a Ride,” and “Waiting,” and then rounded out by the tried and true “Basket Case” and “She”. The latter saw Billie Joe telling us, “Scream at me!” in substitute of his usual explosion after the second chorus, which I thought was kinda touching. Suffice it to say that the middle of this show was a serious treat for longtime fans.

Staples “King for a Day” and the Isley Brothers “Shout” cover were as fun as ever, with Jason Freese getting a chance to shred on saxophone, but the party was toned down by the sober “Still Breathing,” which goes over a lot better live than on record. Lyrically, that song is a lot of similes that don’t really go anywhere for me, but the emotion shined through. Reliable closer “Minority” ended the set proper without a speech in the place of the harmonica section unlike recent tours. Whatever political preaching Billie might have done in the past has been reduced to “Remember one thing: no racism, no sexism, no homophobia,” which actually adorns the back of one the t-shirts available on this tour.

An encore of the unfortunately still-relevant “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia” pummeled us, but gave way to two final solo acoustic songs by Billie Joe, Revolution Radio closer “Ordinary World” (written for the upcoming film he stars in), and everyone’s favorite prom/wedding/funeral song. The final G-chord rang out, Mike and Tré joined Billie for a final bow and to throw out guitar picks, drum sticks and set lists. And then it was over.

We walked outside to see the NYPD surveilling the block – at least one side of it had been blocked off. Fans talked and smoked on the sidewalk, security asked them to move, and homeless crust punks looked to settle in for the night. The rain had stopped, at least, and my brother and I walked off to take the subway back to Queens. Green Day have always been a live band. That’s no less true now than it has ever been. It was good to see them live their credo that rock and roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time. Thank God for that.

Set list:

Know Your Enemy

Bang Bang

Revolution Radio



Boulevard of Broken Dreams


Private Ale

Armatage Shanks

Stuart and the Ave.

409 in Your Coffeemaker


One of My Lies

Christie Road/Burnout

Nice Guys Finish Last


Hitchin' a Ride


Are We the Waiting

St. Jimmy

Basket Case


King for a Day/Shout/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/Hey Jude/Shout

Still Breathing



American Idiot

Jesus of Suburbia

Encore 2:

Ordinary World

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

[*] According to Larry Livermore’s Lookout Records memoir, How to Ru(i)n a Record Label, the intended title of the song was “One for the Razorback”. “Razorbacks” remains a typographical error.