Let me start off this show review saying from the early to late-90s I would have considered myself a Green Day fan. From the first time I heard the album Kerplunk around 1992 I knew these Bay Area guys were something special. Now, let’s fast forward to the present.
I hadn’t seen Green Day in close to 20 years and sort of lost track of them besides knowing that their radio play and popularity were at an all time high. As my wife and I walked in to The Oakland Coliseum on August 5th I had a strange feeling that I knew what I was in store for, and it wasn’t going to be what I wanted, and I was right. Did I hear the songs from days of old that made me grow found of this Bay Area band? Yes. Did I hear all the trendy pop sounding radio stuff? Yes. Did it all blend together and sound the same? YES!
Part of the appeal for me back in the day was the edge, the sound, the punk of it all. Today’s Green Day sounded a lot like really bad radio music with zero percent attitude. Too polished? Too clean? Let’s take Metallica as an example, another band in my opinion who has lost the edge live. Is the material there? Sure it is, but does that material sound like you remember it? Hell no, it doesn’t. And the same can be said for Green Day.
What happened to the punk vibe and sound? Trying to tighten your sound is all fine and dandy except when you lose the feel for how the music was originally intended to sound. I’m of the opinion that punk is supposed to be fast, loud and a bit loose. I found Green Day to be none of those things. It was almost like watching robots working on an assembly line: they were just there doing a job.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s demons that he has faced throughout his career have been well documented and I wish the dude continued success fighting the good fight. But with that said, his stage presence seems to be premeditated and not at all genuine. The type of manic or erratic behavior that made him fun to watch isn’t there, but he’d like you to think it was. Like I said, robotic. Maybe this is the direct result of his new found sobriety? I couldn’t tell you. Billie Joe has also always been known to be outspoken while on stage – equal rights, Donald Trump and any other political topics that are in the news. I get it, your famous, you have a following, it’s your stage, do your thing, just hurry the hell up, say what you must and get to the next song. I could really go without hearing you rant and rave between every song; I paid to listen to music, not to take part in a political convention.
Ok, now my Billie Joe rant is over, moving forward.
Some of the brighter notes for me were the outstanding playing of longtime members Tre’ Cool on drums and Mike Dirnt on bass. These two guys are what make Green Day; they are consistent and really keep things flowing and together on stage. The big surprise was getting to see for the first time live the fourth member of the band, Jason White. If you didn’t know, he plays the guitar… you know, the instrument Billie Joe is supposed to play. Jason did a wonderful job keeping the guitar going while Billie took a lot of time off from playing. It left me with the feeling maybe he would be better suited to stop playing all together and just sing, because he did do that well enough.
If this review sounds like I’m bitter, maybe I am, but I don’t think so. What I am is disappointed. Seeing Green Day plenty of times in the 90s in smaller venues left me with great memories of a local gritty punk band that I was a fan of. They were fun, unpredictable and aggressive. Seeing Green Day in 2017, in a football stadium, sounding so polished made me uncomfortable. It made me feel like I was at a Taylor Swift show (not that there is anything wrong with that). The place was packed with kids and bubble gum, the edge was gone, the sound wasn’t there and the crowd loved every minute of it, chanting, singing, and clapping.
And I’m sorry; if I go to a “punk” show there should be a mosh pit right? None were to be seen or found that evening. This wasn’t a punk show; this was a glorified pop concert that just happened to have quicker music. I’m glad these local boys are doing well for themselves; I just wish it hadn’t come at the cost of hurting the act, sound and aggression of the music.
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing and I will always have fond memories of the 90s Green Day shows, and normally I wouldn’t have even gone to something like this. But as a music fan you are always looking at catching lightning in a bottle one more time, to see a band the way you remembered them way back in the day. But most of the time what you get is what I experienced: let down. Sometimes the past is best left where it’s at, in the past.
Green Day live in Oakland on YouTube:
Photo courtesy of www.greenday.com/photo.