Billie Joe Armstrong probably doesn’t know who you are, but there’s a good chance that he loves you. Tonight, as the sun sets over Hyde Park, Green Day establish themselves at the most joyous show in town.
During their opening track, ‘Know Your Enemy’, the band bring a fan onstage from the audience and teach him to stage dive. The man looks like this is the greatest night of his life but even his excitement is outstripped when, later in the evening, a teenage girl is invited up to play guitar. The set is filled with oddly life-affirming moments like these, and after Billie Joe Armstrong tells the fan she gets to keep the guitar she’s been playing, the next song ‘Basket Case’ feels victorious.
Green Day have been around long enough that it's been possible for three separate generations to come of age with them as the soundtrack. So it is that Generations X through Z are out in force, and with Green Day having more hits than James Bond each group get their version of the band. Older songs like the thundering ‘Longview’ and ‘2000 Light Years Away’ slide through tracks off American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, and on into latest album, Revolution Radio.
Nobody expected tonight to be apolitical, and it isn't long before Green Day’s distaste for bigotry and government comes out. Towards the end of ‘Holiday’ Billie Joe raises his chin, stares out across the crowd and declares, “Repeat after me: no racism! No sexism! No homophobia! And no Donald Trump!”
After closing their main set with ‘Forever Now’, Green Day return for a one-two punch encore of ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Jesus of Suburbia’. People file out of the audience, but come to a stop when Billie Joe produces an acoustic guitar. The night closes with tender, solo acoustic versions of ‘Ordinary World’, ‘21 Guns’ and, naturally, ‘Time of Your Life’. As the last chords ring out the band appear together again, with their arms thrown around each other’s shoulders as confetti bursts into the sky. The time of your life, indeed.
Earlier on in the evening, other stand-out sets include Australian punk institution The Living End and San Francisco legends Rancid. The former pull a dedicated crowd on the Barclaycard Stage, opening with the rumbling protest narrative of ‘Roll On’. Their short set roils with energy, and early singles ‘Second Solution’, ‘Prisoner of Society’ and ‘West End Riot’ clearly remain fan favourites.
Over on the Great Oak Stage, Rancid test out tracks from their newest album, ‘Troublemaker’, but it’s older songs like ‘Fall Back Down’ that get the biggest response. The ska-punk skank of ‘Time Bomb’ is an obvious highlight. It’s especially poignant after the band dedicate it to “Peckham boy” Roy Larner – the man who fought off three knife-wielding terrorists during the London Bridge attack - with vocalist Lars Frederiksen declaring, “He’s a hero, and he deserves a fucking knighthood.” The immensely popular ‘Ruby Soho’ brings Rancid’s set to a close, leaving hoarse-throated fans in their wake.