Nobody appreciates righteousness like John Robb. After seeing Green Day live at Manchester's Old Trafford stadium, he explains why they're still so thrilling - and the ultimate small town band
In a blur of powerful anthemic songs, a stunning LED backdrop, hardcore rushes, massive ballads, serious commentary and daft stunts, Green Day arrive at the sold out 30,000 plus capacity Old Trafford cricket ground on a balmy Mancunian evening. It's a show of strength that seems to be beyond the mainstream media sense of belief.
Their stunning show, almost two hours long, is 21st century rock & roll perfection. Somehow they have managed to scratch the fabric of their constituent sound and make it work in a variety of styles that would be way beyond most bands. Forging on from their roots in the San Francisco punk rock scene, they have the adventure of The Clash and The Beatles - two constituent influences - but have very much moved in their own no-barriers direction without the associated genre fear that hampers so many bands.
Their song writing talent and ability to communicate with a huge section of the public has made them one of the biggest bands in the world today, and they are using the space they have been given very well.
There are moments in this spellbinding show that are simply beyond belief.
Green Day have taken the emotional highs and lows of a rock & roll concert and turned them into something else. Somehow they manage to combine slapstick humour, goofy pranks, fierce pop punk, heartbreaking ballads, blinding introspection and stadium bombast - sometimes all in just one song. They are at ease with massive anthems like 'American Idiot' that stuck it to the right wing pro-war media jocks and was still a huge hit; they can deal out a massive ballad, hardcore thrash or, on the Marilyn Manson tinged 'East Jesus Nowhere', a rumbling stadium glam workout. That they can also thread these into some some sort of narrative is their true genius. Their current album, which forms the backbone of their set, is a triumph in modern American storytelling.
The band can play tough. The rhythm section is superb, and Billie Joe Armstrong is one of the best songwriters operating in modern rock & roll. Despite his mass success, he still has the knack to communicate with the small town neurosis and paranoia that is at the heart of his huge constituency. Armstrong is a twitching presence with a low boredom threshold, disgusted at the world. His songs are stuffed full of punk rock polemic but they also switch from style to style with a hyperactive ease. A Green Day song may start off punk rock but could switch anywhere within thirty seconds - it shouldn't work, but it does
[Full review at The Quietus]