(This is already posted on GDA with awesome photos by @MooreClick, but I wanted to post it here for those of you who are solely GDCers and for my own easy access. Enjoy! )
After a two-year break from touring, Green Day was clearly itching to get back on the road. And in case anyone doubted it, Billie Joe Armstrong made it known early Monday night at the band’s first promotional show for Revolution Radio, its new album that releases Oct. 7.
“You know what sucks? Taking time off of playing music. It’s hard,” he said, just a few songs into the setlist, gazing out and smiling at the eager, sold-out crowd inside Columbus, Ohio’s Newport Music Hall.
“Look at this fucking place. Look at this. We’re back.”
Cheers and applause erupted. Yes, they're back — in every sense of the word.
Despite the hiatus, and after recovering from an illness that led them to postpone tour dates last week, the band thankfully didn’t appear weary or out-of-practice. In about two hours, they ripped through a 25-song setlist with no frills but all the high-energy antics of an arena show. The intimate feeling of seeing the orchestrated chaos just a few feet from your face is almost indescribable. From the second row of the 1,700-person venue, I could see all the tiny details usually only spotted in professionally shot videos: the beads of sweat rolling down their faces; Billie Joe’s quirky starred-and-striped socks; an adorable message, “Hello Again!”, scribbled in silver marker on the front of Mike Dirnt’s black sleeveless vest.
Monday night’s set opened with new singles “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” performed live for the first time, in that order. It’s a thrilling one-two punch that’s hard to top. The songs sounded just as good live as in the studio, if not better, as the band fed off the enthusiasm of a crowd that already had the lyrics memorized. The two songs blended in seamlessly with an otherwise greatest-hits-heavy setlist dominated by singles from American Idiot and Dookie. The show mostly followed Green Day’s tried-and-true formula for live shows, peppered with a few pleasant surprises in-between, including the return of “Scattered” and “Hitchin’ a Ride” from Nimrod and Kerplunk’s “2000 Light Years Away” and “Christie Road.” Billie Joe even sang a few lines from the trilogy’s “Nuclear Family” during the bridge of “Scattered” and looked quite amused with himself during the seconds-long medley.
Many fans, myself included, were initially surprised the setlist wasn’t filled with deep cuts from the past or more new songs from their upcoming album. But as the show continued on, with little deviation from what longtime fans have come to expect from a Green Day concert, I focused less on the songs’ rarity and more on enjoying the performance. This show, I realized, wasn’t meant to be like the last club show I attended, at the House of Blues in Cleveland, the night before the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. It wasn’t a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It was, it seemed, about looking forward to the future and getting back into a groove to prepare for a lengthy world tour that's likely in the works.
From my spot in the pit, in front of Mike, the crowd was nothing like the House of Blues, either. For me, that was a good thing. There were fewer crowd surfers, fewer angsty fans clobbering each other to get a closer spot and few, if any, moments where I felt overwhelmed, at-risk or exhausted. Due to a strict policy that prohibited cell phone recordings of the show (which some fans, unsurprisingly, disregarded anyway), there were also fewer people blocking others’ views to get shots for YouTube. At first, I thought the policy was bogus, but in hindsight, I appreciate it. At my first Green Day show, in Pittsburgh in 2013, I spent more time fending off a violent girl who was desperate for YouTube footage than enjoying the music. Here, everyone seemed more focused on having a good time than anything else. The crowd wasn't dead by any means, but my experience with it was tamer and more controlled this time around.
The band was having a blast, too, and that was evident by the smiles that never left Billie Joe and Mike’s faces and their frequent laughter. I couldn’t see Tré Cool much from my spot in the pit, but I did catch him chuckling a few times, too. During “Minority,” Mike planted a kiss on Billie Joe’s cheek. Billie Joe playfully bantered with the crowd during “Hitchin’ a Ride” and joined saxophone player Jason Freese on a harmonica during “King for a Day.” The pink bunny made its return in the preshow. The show was filled with good, genuine fun and emotion.
Mainly for those reasons, I was really bummed to see Revolution Radio’s third single, "Still Breathing," was listed on Monday’s setlist but not played. The recently released song, which alludes to dealing with addiction, epitomizes the message of moving forward and positivity that Monday’s show seemed to symbolize. Because the band delayed its tour a week, it’s possible the song was scrapped because isn’t ready to be performed live yet, but I hope it’s added to the setlist soon. I could easily see it becoming a crowd favorite and it’s a song full of raw emotion that clearly resonates with the band, too.
Given the political nature of Revolution Radio’s titular track, it came as no surprise that Billie Joe devoted a little show time to political talk, too. He joked about the presidential debate occurring that night and encouraged people to vote and "bring sanity back" into political discussions. He also mentioned it was fitting to kick off the tour in Ohio’s capital city, presumably because it’s a swing state that heavily influences elections. Personally, I also found it fitting that the band debuted the song “Revolution Radio” in Columbus because the city has recently sparked several Black Lives Matter protests, following a fatal police shooting of a 13-year-old black robbery suspect this month. A similar protest in New York inspired Billie Joe to write the song. Just moments before the concert doors opened Monday, a protest formed (unrelated to the concert) and prompted police to shut down a portion of the street adjacent to the concert venue. An eerie coincidence and a powerful reminder of the song's relevance.
The show closed with two acoustic songs, “Ordinary World,” Revolution Radio’s beautiful, but simple closer, and the classic “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” "Ordinary World," written for a namesake movie starring Billie Joe that releases Oct. 14, didn’t receive nearly the same reaction as the fast-paced new songs, but those who were familiar with it, including me, seemed to appreciate hearing it.
A friend of mine and longtime Green Day fan attended the show with me, and on our drive home, he mentioned how differently the band, especially Billie Joe, presented itself compared to recordings of shows he’s watched in the past, such as fan videos and Bullet in a Bible. Since, at this point, I’m a bit jaded to the band’s criticism, I assumed he was being critical. The statement that followed surprised me.
“He just seemed… happy. Really aware and appreciative of what was going on.”
I think that’s a message any fan who criticized the show’s setlist could learn from. Just appreciating the moment. One such instance that really struck me Monday was during the performance of “Waiting,” listening to the lyrics referencing the “dawning of a new era,” while the stage lights faded into a soft white glow around the band. It just seemed so fitting. Revolution Radio releases in just nine days. Its supporting tour, and Green Day’s newest era, is just getting started.
If Monday’s show is any indicator of what to expect, I can’t wait to see what it brings us.