Green Day’s newest record American Idiot is one of the best of the year. It is also their first album of original material in several years.
When a band comes back with such a bang, there is high anticipation for the accompanying tour. When Green Day came to the Liacouras Center this past Friday, they left no doubt that in addition to arguably being the most talented songwriters in punk rock, they are also still an amazing live band.
They came on at about 9:30 p.m., with several flags behind them bearing the cover illustration from American Idiot.
Without hesitation, the group (guitarist/vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, drummer Tre Cool, touring second guitarist Jason White and various other multi-instrumentalist) launched right into the album’s rousing title track.
Following that, they jumped into track two “Jesus Of Suburbia,” a 10-minute epic with many tempo changes and some weird instrumentation.
This is where the band could have slipped up. Instead of going halfway, they played a spot on version of “Jesus,” one of the most complicated, but best songs they have ever written.
They proceeded to barrel through the first six tracks of the new album, except for the new single “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,” which they saved for an encore. For those unfamiliar with the new material, this was probably annoying. However, longtime fans familiar with the new album were in their glory. A band with an amazing new album should play songs from it live, and besides, how many times can you really hear “When I Come Around” played live?
Fans not familiar with the newer material were given a respite at this point, when the group launched into several of their old hits, including “Longview” and “Hitchin’ a Ride.”
In the midst of this, there was lots of goofiness going on onstage, including Armstrong squirting the crowd with a water gun, and repeatedly telling them to say “Hey-O.”
The rest of the set consisted of a mix of old and new. As is customary for them, the band pulled a group of three young musicians from the front row and allowed them to jam with Armstrong on a cover of influential punk band Operation Ivy’s song, “Knowledge.” Afterwards, Armstrong allowed the guitarist of the group to keep the guitar he played.
The highlight of the set, however, was the tender ballad “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” which Armstrong dedicated to the recently deceased Johnny Ramone. This was one of those times where it took seeing a song live to fully understand the emotion behind it.
After the initial 90-minute or so set, they came back and did several encores, including a spot on cover of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” that avoided adding any sort of punk influence to the song.
For the last song, the band retreated backstage, and Armstrong, guitar in hand, did a seemingly from the heart rendition of their biggest hit “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).”
Leave it to Green Day to turn a song most are sick of hearing into a good live number. For the two hours they were onstage, Green Day without a doubt asserted their status as one of the best live bands in the business.
New Found Glory and Sugarcult opened the show. NFG played about 45 minutes worth of songs from their last two LPs, plus their biggest hit, “Hit Or Miss.” As always, they were a high energy live act, and guitarist/former Shai Hulud frontman Chad Gilbert repeatedly implored the hardcore kids in the crowd to “mosh it up.”
Sugarcult played for about 25 minutes and closed with their hit single “Bouncin Off The Walls.”
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at email@example.com.