MORE than 21 years since Green Day first stepped on to an Australian stage at Brisbane’s Festival Hall, the Californian rockers are back.
The band took to the stage at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Monday night as Ennio Morricone’s unmistakeable theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly plays over the PA, with singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong shouting out a quick “Brisbane!” before the band launch straight into 2009 single Know Your Enemy. Moments into the song, the frontman implores everyone in the crowd to “get off (their) asses”.
“This is a rock ’n’ roll show, not a f—ing tea party,” Armstrong shouts, and it’s a testament to his innate and enduring ability to command a crowd that the majority of the audience – even those in the nosebleed section – stay on their feet for the duration of the almost two-and-a-half-hour show.
Moments into the second song Bang Bang, bassist Mike Dirnt – who along with Armstrong is now 45 – proves he’s still as agile as ever, leaping from Tre Cool’s drum riser without missing a note.
“Do you want a revolution?” Armstrong then asks, before launching into the title track of last year’s Revolution Radio, which is accompanied by flames that shoot out from raised platforms on the stage, and goes out with an almighty bang courtesy of the fireworks that coincide with the song’s finale.
Although Green Day are commonly referred to as a three-piece, the addition of guitarist Jason White and multi-instrumentalists Jason Freese and Jeff Matika to the touring line-up makes songs such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams – from rock opera album American Idiot – sound as close to their studio counterparts as possible. That song, along with another couple from the 2004 chart-topper – Holiday and Letterbomb – receive a rousing response, as does Armstrong’s crowd-baiting call to arms: “Brisbane, Australia! I want to hear your voices. I wanna hear you say ‘No racism’. I wanna hear you say ‘No sexism’. I wanna hear you say ‘No homophobia’. I wanna hear you say ‘No Donald Trump’.
Longview, from 1994 breakthrough album Dookie, garners an enthusiastic response, especially when Armstrong pulls a punter from the crowd – who has difficulty singing in key and in time – to help sing the finale.
After a few more crowd favourites – including Burnout, When I Come Around, Minority and St Jimmy – get an airing, the band launch into their well-worn cover of fellow Californian Bay Area punk band Operation Ivy’s Knowledge.
As has become customary, Armstrong asks for a volunteer: “I need a guitarist … man, woman or child, I need someone who can play three chords.”
A thirteen-year-old audience member named Ky answers the call and helps the band through the song, and the look of shocked elation on his face when he’s informed by Armstrong that he can keep the guitar is priceless, even for those who have seen the schtick before.
Basket Case and She follow, before the band launch into an epic, saxophone-accompanied rendition of Nimrod number King For a Day, which morphs into a medley that features the hook from George Michael’s Careless Whisper, a liberal dose of the Isley Brothers’ Shout, as well as snippets of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, The Easybeats’ Good Times, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and Hey Jude.
After such a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, whatever followed was bound to be a let-down, and Revolution Radio tracks Still Breathing and Forever Now subsequently fall a little flat before the band depart the stage. They briskly return to regain any lost momentum with the one-two punch of American Idiot and Jesus of Suburbia.
The band exits the stage once more, before Armstrong returns to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, to treat the crowd to Ordinary World and the song that’s become the soundtrack to countless graduations, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).
More than three decades into their career, Green Day play with a level of energy and exuberance that would put most bands half their age to shame.
The spontaneity of earlier tours has long since been replaced by a well-rehearsed and well-oiled stadium show but what they lack in “something unpredictable” they more than make up for with a polished, pyrotechnic-driven performance and this show proves there’s certainly no drought at Green Day’s fountain of youth.
Green Day play Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday.
Originally published as Just don’t expect something unpredictable