Green Day – London Wembley Arena

By Andy

Ugh, arena shows. Ugh, ¶œ3.50 for a can of beer. Ugh, Less Than Jake not playing. Ugh, the fact that 90% of the audience have no idea whatsoever of what to do during a punk gig (Note: if you do not consider Green Day to be ‘punk’, or if you would like to enter into a more general ‘I’m punker than you’ debate, please stop reading now. And go away). But all this negativity is redeemed by one thing. The fact that Green Day remain one of the best melodic punk bands on the planet, commanding this cavernous venue with a nod of Billie Joe’s ever-gurning head.

The opening band THE CRUSH are, basically, Midtown Lite. Without many good tunes or much energy, they pass the time, but I think they have potential. With a bit more self-belief and some more songs under their belt, they could be big. With all the rumours surrounding the supports (I even heard that Hoobastank were playing!), you’d have thought that one of either No Doubt or Less Than Jake would have played. But no. Oh well. Just as well Green Day blew my bollocks off during their set, then.

Entertainment at a Green Day gig is never in doubt, and when at the beginning a rabbit strolls on to the backing of ‘YMCA’ (Yes, YMCA) and proceeds to down two beers, you just know that it’s going to be a rollercoaster ride. Sirens sound, lights flash, and the band run onstage, throw on their instruments (except Tre, who just sits down) and launch into ‘Maria.’ The sheer energy of the band is amalgamated by the use of some serious pyro, exploding round the stage like a set of landmines, and I reckon that this is one of the best things about the whole show – the sense of spectacle. It’s just all damn good fun, especially when my personal favourite ‘Welcome To Paradise’ comes blasting through the frankly beastlike PA. The quality of this song really shines through when experienced live, and you’d be hard pushed to find someone there who didn’t know every single word. The band’s popularity means that almost everything from Dookie is rapturously received, and to hear this many people singing along is simply a positive, heart-warming experience.

The set draws heavily from Dookie, as you’d expect. Hell, any band who has that kind of repertoire would be crazy not to use those songs! Hitchin’ A Ride was one of the clear highlights, with Billie Joe getting the entire crowd to scream the ‘1,2, 1,2,3,4!’ bit before it all goes mad. But at this point, when you’d expect the entire place to go absolutely nuts (as happened at Reading last year), there was simply an outbreak of…well, nothing. At a moment like that, you NEED some catharsis – be it moshing, skanking, whatever. And it took until about an hour into the gig for anything even remotely resembling a proper pit to form. I’m not the biggest advocate of massive pits, but when the vast majority of the audience is more worried about their 4-foot long chains getting caught up in their Criminal Damage trousers than having a good time, it kinda puts the dampeners on things.

No matter, the atmosphere was still that of the biggest party ever, and when Billie Joe appealed for some old school Green Day fans, the roar was…somewhat empty. But when 2000 Light Years Away sends the whole place mad, not because everyone knows every word, but because it’s THAT good a song, you just know that a few more copies of Kerplunk will be sold in the next couple of days.

The traditional ‘Make A Band To Cover Op Ivy’s Knowledge’ went down very well, with the guitarist keeping the guitar (lucky sod) but only if he stage dived. Wembley Arena is a huge place, the stage is a helluva long way from the crowd, and credit to the dude for jumping into a mass of security guards who caught him. Basketcase followed this, and however much you love this song on record, it’s a million times better live. A cover of Lulu’s Shout was just superb, and for me, sums up the very essence of Green Day. Instantly recognisable, extremely catchy and damn good fun.

The material from Warning was pretty weak in places. Castaway and Waiting sucked, but Minority was superb, and the very last song of the evening, Macy’s Day Parade was very poignant. A mention must be given to the encore itself. Green Day always said they wouldn’t play Good Riddance because it doesn’t fit with the energy, but it was the first song of the encore, with just Billie Joe alone on stage, and it was one of the best moments of any gig I’ve ever been to. Platypus whupped the shit out of everyone, the blistering pace shocking everyone out of a daze of lighter’s and communal hugs, and when they just dropped in a song like When I Come Around with no prior introduction, the entire place went mad. Pure enjoyment.

I’m not a fan of Arena gigs, especially with punk bands. But Green Day showed that they really work, if you have the power and will to work the crowd. Standing on one leg playing a guitar solo behind your head? Check. Diving from the seating area onto the crowd? Check. Massive pyro? check. 3 (count ’em) backdrops? Check. Basically, the quality of Green Day‘s songs have never been in doubt. But their awesome stage show justifies playing a venue of this size, even if I don’t agree with it.

If you want to get scientific, we can. Their songs rule. Their live show rules. Therefore, they rule.