“How many of you are in bands? Well, I grew up worshipping Green Day — so, keep it up.” And like that, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino summed up the entire night at Chicago’s Allstate Arena. Here’s why: She’s in her mid-twenties, loves Green Day. The guy she sang “Our Deal” to in the rafters, who held two beers and stomped around and screamed and wore a brand new 99 Revolutions t-shirt, loves Green Day. The same goes for the two dozen tweens that were intermittently carried out of the stuffy, sweaty, and fleshy GA section — they love Green Day so much they’re willing to (almost) sacrifice a part of their life. Oh, last but not least, the little six or seven-year-old waving a banner around in the section over? She wasn’t even born yet when 2004’s American Idiot dominated the charts, the arenas, and the radio. But she loves Green Day.
I can’t think of any act or artist that carries this much weight with such a multi-generational fanbase today. Yeah, mothers will bring their daughters to Taylor Swift’s many arena shows this summer, or fathers will string their family together for another helping of The Boss, but there’s something that separates Green Day from, say, pop stars or veterans that are passed up or down, respectively. It probably has something to do with a.) great managers, b.) clever marketing, or c.) traditional domination on the radio, but for the sake of this article, and to throw out my own two cents, let’s go with this: d.) the band’s unwavering ability to not age and/or belong to any generation.
When I first thought of angles for this write up, I jotted down “Californication‘s Hank Moody = Billie Joe Armstrong.” For six seasons on Showtime, David Duchovny has played the forgivable fuck up of a writer and father Hank Moody, who continues to piss off anyone he comes across, especially his family and friends. But, whether he’s drugged, or left for dead in a pool, or caught with his head between a stranger’s thighs — it doesn’t matter. He’ll always be back with his trademark boyish charm; never aging, and always forgiven. It’s almost like a cartoon at this point, which then got me thinking about the timeless nature of The Simpsons. Now, it’s well agreed upon that The Simpsons were best throughout the ’90s; however, that by no means makes them strictly a product of that decade.
They’re not. Matt Groening’s landmark television series has been Fox’s staple program for over two decades. Chew on this: Some of their current viewers could have been born after the show’s Golden Age, which trailed off around 1998, and they’re now not only driving on our roads (!) but thinking about which colleges they should attend soon. At this point, The Simpsons are less of a ’90s artifact and moreover an American institution. Why? Overall, the show’s aesthetic never changes, which makes them familiar to viewers both young and old (writing, notwithstanding).
That’s how I look at Green Day. While they haven’t released an exceptional album since American Idiot, they never fail at delivering a catchy track on each attempt — three of the latest examples being ¡Uno!’s “Nuclear Family”, ¡Dos!’s “Stray Heart”, or ¡Tré!‘s ”X-Kid”. And while the more vintage fan won’t sling on a 99 Revolutions Tour Shirt, or sing along to “Oh Love”, they’ll still turn up the radio for “She”, or find themselves tapping along to “Know Your Enemy” during an NBA Playoff game. As for the kids? They’re the ones wearing the shirts, the headbands, and the tattoos as they claw towards the front of each concert to get a chance to sing “Longview”. Fact: They know the words to any new song, they treat the classics with respect, and they’re more obsessed than anyone who ever bought Kerplunk or Dookie on cassette. They also could give two shits about last year’s controversy.
Yes, not even a well publicized meltdown and hiatus could trip Green Day’s storied success. True to his nature, Armstrong walked right on stage at Allstate last night and performed with the chutzpah of a dictator looking over his or her own loving country. He smiled, shook his ass, ran through all the shout outs, called for a wave, lunged Batgirl into the stands, shot his shirt gun, did the whole water gun and toilet paper thing, and humped the ground during the always-irritating hour-long rendition of “King for a Day”. “I’m gonna make sweet, sweet love to myself tonight. It’s great being a hermaphrodite,” he exclaimed while lying facedown. Therapy put him on the wagon, sure, but they couldn’t lock away the brat that fans alike adore.
Here’s where the multiple fanbases differ, however: Obsessives might love everything they do, but a crusty old veteran like myself can’t handle the incessant jam sessions, multiple crowd interactions, and campy outfits. It would appear that Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool have abandoned the Hot Topic couture, but they’re still parading around ideas and party favors that are going on almost 15 years now. The amount of time they spend on the medley of “King for a Day”, “Shout”, “Satisfaction”, and “Hey Jude” could encompass three of the best tracks off 1997’s Nimrod, instead. (Suggestions: “Scattered”, “Uptight”, or “The Grouch”) Not every song needs some call and response, either; for example, “2000 Light Years” works fine alone. And no offense to the portly fan who later in the evening flashed the entire arena some rearview cleavage, but “Longview” should be sung by Armstrong.
Call me a miserable human being, but I used to roll my eyes at the over-scripted Operaton Ivy portion of their set. This was where Armstrong would act all nonchalant, invite a lucky kid on-stage, teach them “Knowledge”, and then let them go home with the guitar. It worked back in 2002, but tired fast three years later. They don’t do that anymore, but the effect is still there. Whether they were inspired by Cosentino, or fired up from the two hour performance, a great majority of fans will go home in pursuit of a guitar. The more cynical types will revisit “Brain Stew”, no doubt the reason they picked up the six-string in the first place, while their youngsters will look up the tabs online. That’s the beauty of Green Day, and why it’s almost a cultural stigma at this point. Because of this, no amount of controversy will change that.
Someone should tell Armstrong that. Towards the end, the slinky frontman brushed on the subject, admitting: “It’s been a slightly unpredictable path, but I wouldn’t trade it for the whole world tonight.” It’s a shame he didn’t hear the tens of thousands thinking the same thing: Ditto.
Photography by Heather Kaplan.
Best Coast Setlist:
Crazy For You
The Only Place
Why I Cry
I Want To
Do You Love Me Like You Used To
When I’m With You
Green Day Setlist:
Know Your Enemy
Stay the Night
Stop When the Red Lights Flash
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Disappearing Boy (w/ “Sweet Child of Mine”)
2000 Light Years Away
Going to Pasalacqua
When I Come Around
King for a Day (w/ “Shout”, “Satisfaction”, and “Hey Jude”)
Jesus of Suburbia