With the recent controversial U.S. presidential appointment seemingly the only thing I’m forced to read about these days on the news, it seems that rockers Green Day have ample inspiration for new material coming hard and fast. With the announcement in September 2016 that the band would be playing at London’s O2 Arena for the first time since 2009 in support of 12th studio album Revolution Radio, British fans were abuzz with excitement.
Being a hardcore fan of the band since I was 14, I knew that this was certainly going to be a show to remember. They hadn’t been in the country at all for a concert since 2013, where they played a humongous show at the Emirates Stadium, followed by a surprise show at the Brixton Academy and a headliner place on the bill at the dual Reading and Leeds Festivals. We all knew it had been far too long since the band had set foot in the UK, which meant this show would be huge and certainly one that wouldn’t be easily forgotten.
Following a frosty night camping outside the venue (and many more hours waiting in the queue for standing inside the arena), I managed to get myself a prime spot at the end of the band’s notorious catwalk. As Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody played over the PA, (the crowd’s singing pretty much all but drowning out Freddy Mercury’s vocals) the hype from the crowd was clear; we were ready for a rock show.
I had an amazing view as Green Day burst onto the stage, kicking off proceedings with 2009 single Know Your Enemy, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong quickly hauling a girl from within the crowd to sing on stage with him. The girl he’d chosen was clearly overwhelmed as she stared out at us in bewilderment and excitement. Armstrong even made sure that her handbag was safe, taking it off of her and handing it to his security team, before demanding that she perform a stage dive. We all encouraged her with hands held aloft ready to catch her, despite her obvious nerves.
That’s the great thing about being a Green Day fan; we have a sense of community and it felt stronger within the O2 Arena that night than it had done ever before. Bringing fans up on stage has been a long-standing tradition at Green Day shows and it’s clear that the experience makes a huge impact for those lucky few to be chosen.
One very touching moment came late into the set, during a cover of Operation Ivy’s Knowledge where the 44-year-old frontman chose a disabled fan named Rachel to come on stage to play the chorus on guitar. He helped her play the three chords and the crowd chanted her name – no doubt a memory that won’t be forgotten easily for everyone involved! He then let Rachel keep the guitar.
Bang Bang, Revolution Radio and the politically driven Holiday swiftly followed the opening number, accompanied with chants of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA”, a line adapted from a lyric by 80s punk band MDC. The drive behind these hard, powerful songs was evident amongst the crowd, with fists readily pumped into the air, a sea of people jumping and moshing all around us and even more anti-Donald Trump chants occurring throughout the set, much to the band’s excitement.
Looking out onto the stage, it was very obvious just how much fun that Armstrong, bass player Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool were having during the show.
Not only had the British fans missed their presence, but the band seemed to genuinely miss being here too with Armstrong later commenting about how much he loved coming to England, due to our shared passion for music. However, looking at the expressions on the band’s faces as they played was all the evidence we needed to tell that they were happy to be back.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice from my spot at the barrier were the amount of phones being held aloft, filming the show for Facebook and Snapchat. I’ve always had the opinion that I’d rather be “in the moment” for Green Day shows, rather than spend the majority of the time making sure my phone camera is working. Seemingly, Armstrong agrees with this as he comments on the current generation’s fascination with social media. “I don’t wanna see a selfie! I just want to see all of your beautiful faces!” he screamed at his audience.
He touches again on this as the instantly recognisable drumbeat for Longview rumbles from Tré Cool’s drum kit. Armstrong spots a fan filming him on their phone and politely asks, “Hey what is that? Is that a camera on your phone? You know, let me just tell you one thing. If you’re looking at me through your phone, you aren’t looking at me”. To this, the crowd gives a huge cheer and the phone is swiftly put away.
Later on, Billie Joe holds up ‘Blue’, a guitar his mother bought for him when he was 10 years old; a symbol amongst hard-core Green Day fans of the early days. He recalls how he’s since played it at every single Green Day show throughout their career and the crowd erupts as the band then kicks into the classic from 1991: 2,000 Light Years Away.
From there, we were treated to a whirlwind of different picks from the band’s 30-year stance within the music industry, including Christie Road, Hitchin’ A Ride, and the always-powerful Minority.
During the mammoth 30-song set, it was clear that the Californian rockers had returned to form and that the hype around this first show back in London for many years was well and truly deserved. Their sense of showmanship hadn’t faltered by the recent struggles that the band had seen.
Armstrong’s alcohol addiction meant that promotion of their previous albums (the Uno, Dos and Tré trilogy) was effectively scrapped while the band recuperated and Armstrong took time out to recover.
Comparing this show to those I’d seen a few years ago, it’s clear that the band has successfully overcome the battles they faced and are stronger, more united and more passionate than ever.
The way Armstrong manages to maintain control of every single person in the crowd is perfection. From the people way up at the very back, to those like me right at the front on the floor; if he spoke, we listened. If he demanded our hands in the air or for us to scream, we complied. There’s no doubt that his stage presence and charisma has not faltered at all and that he was happy to be back playing these new (and old) songs for a fresh audience.
Throughout the set, there were fireworks, flames, confetti, masks, dancing and even a saxophone rendition of the late George Michael-penned Wham! hit Careless Whisper. There were moments where I cried, laughed, danced and waved my hands up in the air at Armstrong’s command.
As the gig comes to a close with beautiful acoustic renderings of new tune Ordinary World and classic rock ballad Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), Billie Joe assures us that although this was the last date of the European tour, Green Day will be back in the London for more fun during the Summer (for their upcoming show with Rancid at BST in Hyde Park). I think it’s safe to say that the excitement for this is already brewing and that’s thanks to the reminder of just how great Green Day are at putting on live shows.
Tickets for Green Day’s British Summer Time show in London’s Hyde Park on July 1st are on sale now and can be picked up over here: http://www.bst-hydepark.com/tickets
Live review of Green Day @ The O2 Arena by Polly Cantle on 8th February 2017.
Photos by Kalpesh Patel. Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate