Kings for More than a Decade
Times Union Center, Albany New York
July 25th, 2009
In 2004, Green Day released American Idiot, a record that not only revived their career, but will most likely define it. After selling more than 5 million copies of the album and playing sold-out arenas and stadiums around the world, it seemed like Green Day had little to prove with their next record, 21st Century Breakdown. In a way, this is true, for the band was more or less guaranteed to sell a ton of records and a lot of tickets no matter what they put out. Despite this fact, the band certainly didn’t mail it in, for 21st Century Breakdown is possibly more ambitious than its predecessor, and as proven by their performance at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York, the fans love the record, and the band continues to put on a jaw-dropping live show.
Stealing the show before taking the stage
The show was opened by New York’s own The Bravery. The band has seen some success with their first two records, but few in the crowd seemed at all interested when they took the stage. That changed when an ear splitting crash was suddenly heard midway through the band’s first song. Lead singer Sam Endicott literally ducked for cover and threw his hands over his head as those in the crowd snapped to attention. It happened again toward the end of the song, and then again at the start of the next one. Was it a problem with the sound system? Not exactly.
The noise, which was actually fireworks being set off behind the band’s enormous backdrop, was just the start of the prank, which Green Day had devised to celebrate the Bravery’s last of twenty nights on the tour. Next up was a parade of animals and mythical creatures (or at least, men dressed like them), including the Easter Bunny and a dragon. The costumed men danced along on stage for most of the set, and they were soon joined by a pair of male strippers, who danced uncomfortably close to Endicott throughout the rest of the band’s time on stage.
The most impressive part of the prank was not how elaborate or well planned it was, but the fact that the band played through it completely unfazed. This not only included the dancers and the fireworks, but also the fact that the individual members of the group were shot with a toilet paper gun on multiple occasions, and then a huge storm of popcorn and ping pong balls was shot onto the stage later in the set. The entire spectacle ended with the Bravery performing one of their biggest hits, “An Honest Mistake” in this projectile storm as Endicott held an enormous umbrella over his head. While their set was completely overshadowed by the onstage antics, they did sound good, and I would certainly like to see them in a less unusual situation.
Green Day starts with more fireworks
While the Bravery had been a nice distraction, it was clear that each and every person in the cavernous (and not quite full) arena were there for the headliners, and they cheered widely as a recorded version of “Song of the Century” began to play. While other bands often avoid new material early in the set to ensure starting off on a high note, Green Day decided to do the opposite, opening with “21st Century Breakdown” and “Know Your Enemy,” both of which had those on the floor bouncing up and down while those in the stands sang along. While their new record may not achieve the same success as American Idiot did five years ago, it certainly didn’t make the slightest difference to these fans.
A Small Surprise
The band continued the new tracks with “East Jesus Nowhere,” which marked the first appearance on stage by a fan. This fan wasn’t your average Green Day die-hard however, for he couldn’t have been more than ten years old. If you ignored the fact that he looked absolutely terrified as he was being “saved” by Armstrong, he did bear a striking resemblance to the energetic front man. After the fireworks exploded and the pint-sized guest had hit the deck as if being shot, the band sprinted into three songs that would quickly work the crowd into a tizzy. “Holiday” (which included the obligatory microphone shouts from Billy Joe) was followed by “The Static Age” and “Before the Lobotomy,” two of the better tracks from 21st Century Breakdown. All the while, bassist Mike Dirnt strutted across the stage, looking calm and confident as Armstrong raged like a madman.
Back To Basics
With fireworks continuing to explode and the band members (especially Billy Joe) getting as close to the crowd as the barriers would permit, the band continued to pack the set list with new material, with “St. Jimmy” making for one of the shows best moments. Then just when it seemed as if everyone in attendance had forgotten about the band’s older material, the group launched into an extended trip down memory lane, beginning with “Hitchin’ A Ride.” While American Idiot may have been the record that attracted many in the arena to the band, they had certainly brushed up on the Green Day back catalogue, singing along as if each song was currently #1 on the rock charts.
It was during “Longview” that Armstrong called three different fans up on stage, with each getting to sing a chorus and verse, and then dive back into the crowd. This bit of audience participation is a novel idea, but only if the fans know every single word, which wasn’t necessarily the case here. During “King for a Day,” the band was joined on stage by an entire brass section, as well as other additional musicians. While these annonomous artists play with the band for most of the show, they probably don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to making the entire spectacle possible.
It Wouldn’t Be An Arena Show If It Wasn’t Over The Top
The award for most absurd song of the night certainly goes to the band’s performance of retirement home aerobics class favorite “Shout.” Surprisingly, the crowd seemed to enjoy it, although it certainly didn’t leave anyone begging for more obnoxious covers. The show then suddenly took on a more serious tone as the band moved on to current single “21 Guns,” which came complete with an enormous audience sing along and a shower of sparks that rained from the ceiling and nearly engulfed the band. “American Eulogy” followed, and the band walked off the stage as the crowd cheered for “one more song.” They would get much more than that.
A Half-Hearted Attempt At Revenge
Green Day returned to the stage with “American Idiot,” and they were soon joined on stage by a heard of men wearing fake beards and plastic armor. They quickly unfurled an enormous “Woodstock ’94” banner, to the chagrin of Armstrong, who jokingly chided the group for messing up a serious song. As if these men (who were soon throwing dirt around the stage) weren’t enough, the Bravely soon made their own appearance, this time dressed in drag. If there’s one thing that could be gleamed from their time on stage, it was that lead singer Sam Endicott is most likely anorexic.
While the band had done their best throughout the night to wow the crowd, the most impressive performance of the night was turned in by a young female fan who was called up on stage to play guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia.” She basically didn’t miss a step throughout the nine minute epic, strumming Armstrong’s guitar while sitting on one of the monitors at the front of the stage. Armstrong meanwhile bounced around the stage and onto the catwalk that extended out into the middle of the floor, working the crowd back into a frenzy. While the band had been on stage for nearly two and half hours, the music just kept coming. “Minority” represented the only Warning track the band would play on the night, and the crowd loved every second of it as blue and white confetti floated down from the ceiling.
The band, save for Armstrong, would then leave the stage, saying goodbye to the Albany crowd for the last time. Billy Joe, meanwhile, would grab an acoustic guitar and finish off the show with “Last Night On Earth” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” The crowd seemed more excited to hear the former, as “Time of Your Life” has worn out its welcome for most. This is not to say, however, that the show ended on a down note. The fans streamed out into the empty city center raving about what they had just witnessed: a full two hours and forty minutes of bliss from one of the world’s best rock bands. While Green Day is a band that doesn’t need any gimmicks to put on a memorable live show, they showed that a few fireworks are a never a bad thing when you back up all of the pomp.