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11 October 2005

With Green Day, It's All Good

With Green Day, It’s All Good
Concert Review

Portland’s Memorial Coliseum rocked recently to the punk pop sound of multi-award winning Green Day. Clearly influenced by the glory days of punk, the hard driving style and raw energy of bands like the Ramones and The Clash screamed through much of their set.

This trio succeeds where those groups failed, however, by pressing punk music to the forefront of mainstream rock ‘n roll. Diehard punkers reviled Green Day for ‘selling out’ their roots when they signed with major label Reprise Records in 1993. The Portland performance, one stop on the wildly successful American Idiot Tour, proved that the choice between punk and rock is not one that must be made after all. With Green Day, it’s all good.

Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong segued seamlessly between hardcore punk anthems such as “Basketcase” and “Longview”, emo-punk “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and rock standards like Queen’s “We are the Champions.” Billie Joe was born to rule the stage and rightfully crowned himself the King of Punk Pop by donning royal robes and a crown. The audience morphed into a puppet in his hands, responding to every tug of the strings. The frenzied mass, willing slaves to their charcoal eye-lined master, dutifully obeyed every glance or gesture bestowed upon them by the King. Armstrong’s control of the crowd was nothing less than awe-inspiring. The rush he must feel by that power can’t be imagined.

Unlike their adolescent tours, the boys did not take to the stage for merely two hours of jamming. This flamboyant rock ‘n roll show harkens back to the powerhouse displays that we free-spirited-children of the 70s recall with a secret smile in the midst of board room meetings and soccer-mom carpools. The show explodes with pyrotechnics, bombs, lights, confetti guns and a pulsating sound that burn into your very bone structure. Green Day is a punked out rock ‘n roll at its most fun.

Drummer Tre Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt backed Armstrong’s guitar and vocals, along with a brass section and keyboards. Tre left the drums behind for an odd rendition of the cult favorite, “All by Myself“, a hidden track on 1994’s “Dookie” album. True to their reputation, the band plucked kids out of the audience to spray sweaty moshers with a fire hose and to join them on stage to play the band’s instruments. One stunned teen, 14-year-old Garrison Schmidt of Scotts Mills, Oregon, walked away with the lead guitarist’ Epiphone Les Paul guitar as a souvenir.

Green Day’s style could also be termed “political punk” for its aggressive Bush-bashing and anti-war stance. Images of war and falling bombs backed their performance of the current hit, “Holiday,” from the American Idiot CD. Lyrics like “Sieg heil to the president gasman” brazenly compare Bush to Hitler, while Armstrong urged the crowd to use the power within them to push the Bush administration out of power.

While most of the free world has embraced Green Day, buying over 25 million of their albums, be forewarned that the American Idiot tour will likely offend the very old, the very young, or the extreme political or religious right. Profanities are the norm and Billie Joe chooses to exercise his own civil liberty with an extended masturbation scene and occasionally mooning the audience. Instead of being shocked, the audience laughs along with Armstrong who seems tickled that he can get away with whatever he deigns to try.

The encore included a haunting rendition of “When September Ends” and the band closed with Billie Joe serenading the audience with “Good Riddance” from 1997’s “Nimrod” album. The acoustic ballad hopes that the fans have “had the time of their life.” We absolutely did, boys. Thank you.