By Laura MacInnes-Rae
After a dramatic lash-out from front man Billie Joe Armstrong in September at iHeartRadio; the postponement of Green Day’s 2013 tour was announced due to Armstrong’s rehabilitation admittance. However, just six months later, Green Day seems to have pulled it together again and has at last eased back into its familiar tour scene. Last Thursday, the guys appeared on stage for their long awaited Toronto show at the Air Canada Centre. After indie/surf opener band Best Coast, first to enter the stage was Armstrong, back on an electric comeback. Any whispers of failed expectations were quickly silenced once the front man got a mic into his hands.
Come meatheads, come rockers, come children who found Dookie on cassette tape while snooping through their siblings’ rooms; come one, come all. The audience base ranged from die hard middle agers to the offspring of those diehards. A couple of F-bombs later, and parents have already stopped their attempts to cup their children’s ears. If their kid listens to Green Day and wanted to see Green Day, then let them see (smell?) the real Green Day. The band powered through favourites from American Idiot and new tunes off their most recent album trilogy. But it didn’t seem as though the newer tunes got the same energy from the crowd. Classics off the band’s best-selling album Dookie were certainly not ignored; “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around,” achieved the loudest crowd response. Songs off their lesser known albums from the 1990’s were also represented. Each Green Day era was acknowledged, hopefully pleasing every type of fan young and old.
Known for his solid reputation in crowd interaction, Armstrong did not disappoint. He personally chose 2 kids from the pit to join him onstage; one of them to sing the last verse of “Longview.” Despite its 1994 release date, and my young adolescence, I like to think I still prove worthy of saying that Dookie triggered a certain nostalgia that became almost overwhelming. It’s a funny feeling when you experience the music you’ve grown up with in the flesh. It’s been three times over now that I have seen Green Day perform; some say it’s from the devil’s grass that’s in the air, but all in all its charm never seems to wear off. How could Green Day have played a show and not have totally annihilated oldie favourite “Brainstew?” Suddenly memories of sleepless nights and teenage angst and playing this song on repeat became very relevant. “Brainstew,” a very relatable song about insomnia was actually written about the front man’s struggles with sleep after his first child was born.
With a pink boa, Viking hat and still positively pounding with energy, Armstrong waltzed back on stage for what most Green Day fans would instantly recognize as being the cue for “King For a Day/Shout.” The guys made up for the predictability by unexpectedly transitioning into a medley of “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Hey Jude.” A stellar saxophonist and accordion player joined the stage. The song gradually carried all band members save Tre on the drum kit, to continually play the song lying down on the stage floor. With 8 albums and 26 years of performing under their belt, leave it to Green Day to put on a spectacle. Armstrong, who lay flat on his stomach on the floor at the time, was clutching his mic with no less force despite it being his third mic replacement in a set, and still singing steadily for the last notes. Afterall, this is the same band that had an aggressive mud fight take place on stage during their set at Woodstock in ’94.
There it was again, the familiar growl of Armstrong addressing the audience overtop a surging powerchord, “Caaanadaaaaaa, free health care, gun control…are you ready for tonight?!” This front man enjoys getting a reaction out of people. If there’s something I have learned through seeing Green Day perform live, it is that when headlining a show, one has the freedom to do and say whatever the hell they please. I can say that I truly believe that Green Day still has it. It’s refined and remastered, but that thing that keeps iconic names from falling off the music radar; they still have it. Spunk. The latest trilogy albums released by Green Day were not as original as the band’s trademark punk/rock songs describing teen angst and politics. One could argue that Green Day has had its time and sold out post-American Idiot; though one could also argue that they can still put on a killer show.
Though there were times when he took breaks to get the crowd singing to give himself time to catch his breath (which wasn’t ideal in the middle of a song); fans can at least appreciate a performer that’s still on the road after keeping his word on a tour, post-rehab. Armstrong’s relentless energy carried the audience through a 2 and a half hour set including the encore. His performance proved to surpass negative post-rehab criticisms. The last show I attended that had a set that was a minimum of 2 hours was Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, this past August. I will not compare the two, as they are completely different rock genres; however I will say that both front men know how to put on a show to get your money’s worth. The ending of a great show is always a milestone, whether it be disappointing or exceptional, it is mentally documented. This show left me in a bittersweet frenzy, ending on a climactic note, with “Brutal Love,” a raw and sentimental rock ballad. In closing, his heart and soul raw in his voice, Armstrong bid Toronto a final “good night,” and Green Day left the stage.