At Shepherd’s Bush O2, the atmosphere is electric. Drummer Tre Cool takes the stage, grabs the microphone and announces that Billie Joe has laryngitis before launching into a rendition of ‘All By Myself’ to rapturous laughter and applause.
Luckily, Billie Joe bounces onto the stage and ‘Welcome to Paradise’ kicks in. Green Day are here and they’re not taking any prisoners.
One of the things about Green Day which is particularly relevant, considering the recent debate about whether or not a band should just play the hits, is that they never neglect their older material. While the more recent songs – ‘Kill the DJ’, ‘Nuclear Family’ – all get a play, so do songs from as far back as 39/Smooth – ‘Going To Pasalaqua’ is a highlight of the set, as is the fact that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong pulls a fan up onto the stage and hands him his guitar to play during the song.
New song ‘Oh, Love’ has seemed somewhat underwhelming when inititally heard, but in a live setting it seems to lose the inertia that holds it back and becomes instead something of a power-pop whammy.
It’s almost unbelievable that Armstrong is now 40 as he throws himself around the stage exactly as he always has – jumping from the drum riser, jamming a jaunty paper crown on his head for ska- infused ‘King For A Day’ and playing a mock riff on an inflatable guitar handed to him by a fan. While his habit of making the crowd repeat an extended ‘heyoooo’ back to him gets old fast, it’s hard to feel annoyed about it. His impish charm remains even when he takes a break halfway through a song to lay on the floor and sing parts of whatever comes into his head – the crowd allow a few lines of ‘We Are Young’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’, but ‘Hey Jude’ quickly kills the mood and gets a few boos. Armstrong gets the message, though, and returns to a punky cover of ‘Shout’ – complete with each band member taking their turn to sing the opening.
Apart from the sadly noticeable absence of ‘Good Riddance’, the set list is practically flawless. ‘Basketcase’ seems to send most of the crowd into manic flails of ecstasy – no matter how many often it’s been heard, there’s still something special about it.
While ’99 Revolutions’ is an odd choice for a closing song, and takes away some of the high-level excitement generated by previous encore choice ‘American Idiot’, there’s absolutely no doubt that everyone in the audience leaves happy.
Although Green Day can be accused frequently of nostalgia, there’s no feeling of that tonight. The idea of nostalgia seems to imply a sort of dusty weariness, a determination to hold onto the past at all costs. Green Day are very much in the present and, if any term should be used to describe the mood in the tiny venue, it comes a lot closer to euphoria than it does nostalgia.
Green Day might change a lot of things – signing to a major label, taking a more power-pop tilt to their songs – but the one thing that stays the same is their energy and obvious passion and enjoyment of what they do. Long live Green Day.
Below: Green Day live at Shepherds Bush