Review: Green day live at Manchester Arena

“Do you wanna start a revolution?!” Green Day’s live wire frontman Billie Joe Armstrong drew roars of approval from the 180,00 capacity crowd at the Manchester Arena as the bright opening chords to ‘Revolution Radio’ echoed around the venue. It wouldn’t be the last time. Again and again the punk rock veterans elicited wild reactions as they played hit after hit, covering albums from 1991 to 2016, interspersed with genuine outrage over the stark landscape of contemporary American politics.
The Interrupters had set the scene for mass musical protest with an uplifting set, making ska sound every bit as relevant as it was 20 years ago. Their 30 minute set channelled numerous influences from Rancid to Reel Big Fish. But even they could appreciate that everyone was here for the main event. A spontaneous singalong to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was followed by the lights going down. Manchester held its breath. Prematurely. The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ turned the volume up further, with the now expected appearance of the intoxicated bunny concluding the warm-up.

 
Green Day sprinted onto the stage and exploded into 21st Century Breakdown single ‘Know Your Enemy’, with the final verse being belted out by an audience member with loud trousers and even louder vocals. The quality of their most recent album, Revolution Radio, was attested by the fact that the crowd had memorised the lyrics to the provocative Bang Bang and the title track which followed.

 
Despite this, one cannot escape the reality that many were there to harken back to Green Day’s earlier days. These people were not to be disappointed as the early part of the show included a selection from 2004’s seminal album American Idiot: the triumphant ‘Holiday’, a riotous performance of ‘Letterbomb’, and a semi-acoustic adaption of the anthemic Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

 

“I hope you had the time of your life.” As Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool took their bows following the time-honoured closer “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, the deafening appreciation was the only answer they needed.

The show followed a formula that Green Day have made their own on recent tours: starting with a battering ram of 21st century hits, before delving into back catalogue, finally returning to more recent tracks before returning for two encores.

 
The middle part of the set would have been a highlight for many. ‘When I Come Around’, ‘Basket Case’ and ‘She’ are just some of the 1990s hits that the crowd were treated to. The breakneck speed of the older material showcased drummer Tré Cool’s machine-gun single-strokes and bassist Mike Dirnt’s sheer dexterity. The band even found time to make one girl’s dreams come true as she was brought up to play the guitar for a cover of Operation Ivy’s knowledge, before Billie Joe announced she could keep the instrument – cue a picture of exulted disbelief on her face.

 
Two things really stood out about this show. Firstly, the new songs stood up well in comparison to the classics, and that is no mean feat. Revolution Radio is undoubtedly a quality album, and the reviews back that up. The audience demographic was also notable, with preteens and pensioners alike finding common ground in Green Day’s deep back catalogue.
The main set was a triumph in itself, especially when everything descended into organised chaos during the ska-punk drag commentary ‘King For A Day’ – complete with the saxophone solo from ‘Careless Whisper’. But the encore ramped things up to a whole new level. Those foolish enough to believe Billie Joe when he announced Forever Now as their last song rushed back in to catch the bombastic ‘American Idiot’ – no prizes for guessing which newly elected politician that was directed at. Yet the undisputed highlight of the set was still to come. For over nine minutes, 180,00 people jumped up and down, waved their arms and belted out the lyrics to the utterly brilliant rock-opera epic ‘Jesus of Suburbia’.

 
“I hope you had the time of your life.” As Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool took their bows following the time-honoured closer “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, the deafening appreciation was the only answer they needed.

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