“Tonight is a fucking celebration:” My first Green Day concert

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Allstate Arena March 28th, 2013

I’ve been wanting to see Green Day live since about 2005, but financial woes always kept me from going. The one year that I finally had money to see them, they went to Lollapalooza. My heart was broken. Sure, I saved up some money to see them, but I didn’t have that much. After hearing several fan stories and watching the live DVDs over and over again I had enough. I was going to see Green Day no matter what. And 2013 is the year it happened. It will always be one of the best days of my life.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t looking forward to opener Best Coast at all. I had already checked out their albums and wasn’t impressed with what I heard. They weren’t all that bad, I mean they at least sounded decent. But their songs about how cool LA is and about getting boys just aren’t for me, so while they were on I was mostly getting my camera ready for my guys. The anticipation was killing me until Queen’ s”Bohemian Rhapsody” came on. The music swelled and the entire crowd sang the whole song and then applauded at the end. It has to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. It also shows the tightness of the Green Day fan base. The cheering was so intense you would’ve thought Queen themselves were on stage! Then it happened: “Blitzkrieg Bop” came on, which only means one thing: Green Day was next.

Anyone who was worried about the absence of the Drunk Bunny fear not; he’s still stumbling around on stage, downing several beers. It was great to actually see this weird tradition for myself, rather than on Youtube in my bed room. When the song was over, the lights went out, and out came Billie, Mike, and Tre. I swear I have never screamed so hard in my life. There they were, right in front of my eyes. They weren’t on TV, I wasn’t looking at them on my wall, they were on stage in front of me. I was actually seeing the three musicians I respected the most. They launched into an energetic rendition of “99 Revolutions” where they revealed their impressive new lights that spelled out “Green Day” behind them. They then went into “Know Your Enemy,” which saw one lucky fan in the Batman cape get onstage with the guys to sing a few of the verses before diving back in the crowd.

Really, I thought the setlist was great. Sure, they could’ve played one or two more songs from the Trilogy, but I think the songs that they picked, which included “Stay the Night,” “Stop When the Red Lights Flash,” “Oh Love,” during which the entire crowd sang along, and “Stray Heart” translated well in a live setting. Throughout the first couple of songs Billie often stopped to express his happiness at being onstage. He said “We’ve been a band for 25 years! Since 1989! This is a fucking celebration! We are alive! We are all alive tonight!” Not only was it his punk rock way of saying he’s glad to be back on stage, it got the crowd super pumped for the rest of the show. Also, saying that Chicago knew how to party didn’t hurt either. At one point he had us do the wave and just being a part of it and seeing the whole thing pulled off successfully was stunning. One thing I thought was really cute was how often Billie would shout “CHICAGO!” then as if someone took him to the side and reminded him that they were in Rosemont, he would say “ILLINOIS!” Nice save there, Billie. At least he covered all the basis. Either way he made sure we felt loved.

Of course they wanted to please the “vintage” Green Day fans as Billie calls them and they pulled out all the stops. Not only did they play the biggest hits from Dookie including “Basketcase,” “When I Come Around,” and an unexpected performance of “She,” they did material from their first two albums that began with “Disappearing Boy,” which made the crowd go wild. Everyone broke out singing, dancing, and moshing as soon as the opening riff played. One of the highlights for me was when Billie asked “Do you want to hear something from 39/Smooth? Who wants to hear something from 39/Smooth?” Then they played the opening riff to “Going to Pasalaqua” and I went nuts. It’s one of my most favorite Green Day songs and I heard it live. And of course he played all these classic songs on a Blue replica. “Longview” was also a great performance. Not only were the guys lively, this was yet another time they pulled up someone on stage to sing. The first girl that got pulled up apparently couldn’t do the song justice; Billie kicked her off after she belted out the first three words. Hey, at least she got to hug him. The second person who got pulled up (John Benjamin from GDC!) did an excellent job. I was clapping and cheering for him so hard when the song was over.

Other crowd pleasers included “Holiday,” during which Billie shouted “Lights out!” Everything went black and Billie pulled out a light and shined it across everyone in the arena before continuing with the song by saying “The representative of Illinois now has the floor.” “Brainstew” and “St. Jimmy” found more excitement, energy, and craziness from both the band and the crowd. During “Brainstew” it seemed like Billie forgot some of the words. He began singing the wrong verse, walked away from the mic, tried again, failed, walked away from the mic again before he finally got it right. It wasn’t really noticeable, but it definitely was cute.

During the latter song, Billie stayed in his Christ like pose with his arms outstretched for about a minute, enough time for everyone to get pictures. To shake things up some of the songs would be extended to include musical jams and unexpected covers. During “Disappearing Boy,” Billie broke out in “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which he insisted the rest of the crowd to sing with him, and “Highway to Hell.” During this time, Billie also put down the guitar and grabbed an assortment of water guns, toilet paper guns, and t-shirt cannons to dose the crowd.

Probably everyone’s favorite part was when everyone donned silly hats and in some cases bras (Tre Cool) and “King for a Day” started. This is when the party started. Everyone was having a good time while Billie shimmied and shaked on stage (hey, he’s still got it for a 41 year old). He then got into a saxophone war with Jason White, who actually plays the sax, while Billie played the kazoo. Then the music stopped, Tre came from behind the drumkit with his big pink bonnet, and started singing “You’ve been so good to me” before launching into “Shout,” which got everyone moving. Now, I’ve seen this routine on live DVD’s, but nothing beats seeing it for yourself. So yes, the does mean I got to see Billie hump the floor in person. What was even better is when he rolled on to his back and said “Oooohh I’m gonna make love to myself. Marriage equality for everyone, am I right?!” Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, at that moment everyone wanted Billie Joe. It just brought the whole place down and is definitely one of my favorite moments.

The encore was also amazing. They played “American Idiot” and another great highlight of the evening “Jesus of Suburbia.” Honestly, I didn’t expect them to play the nine minute opus, which again included more sing-a-longs and dancing. It was also at this time where Billie did this weird shuffle that at first looked like he was trying to swim through the crowd, but then ended up as a zombie walk. Not really sure what was going on, but whatever it was, it was awesome. But the best encore song was the sweet, melancholic “Brutal Love” from ¡Tre! Everything slowed down, the lights went dark with a lone spotlight shining on Billie as he sang “Turn out the lights, close your eyes.” This is where everyone pulled out their lighters, their cell phones, flashlights, whatever they could get their hands on. I know people miss the classic closer of “Good Riddance,” but this song is perfect for this tour and one that I was very happy to hear live. Again, it was another song from the Trilogy that works really well on stage and I hope they keep it in the setlist. It was a fitting end to an amazing night.

Overall, the concert was great and reminded me why I love Green Day. The guys were on point with their singing and playing. And once again, Billie Joe proves he’s one of the greatest front man in rock music today. His crowd interaction was amazing. He did his standard “Hey-ohs” and encouraged the crowd to sing along during every song. There were moments where he would just turn the mic around, sit down, and let the crowd sing parts of the song for him. Also, I love how he commands the stage for such a small guy. Just the way he’ll stomp around and then do some impressive jumps really gets your attention. They all just seemed really happy to be there and they seemed to revel in the love and feedback they got from the crowd. There seemed to be moments when Billie just stopped and covered his face, as if he couldn’t believe he was back on stage doing what he loved when just 6 months ago he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Previously, I missed Green Day every year they came to town. I assure you, I won’t miss them again when they come back to Chicago.

Complete Setlist:

99 Revolutions

Know Your Enemy

Stay the Night

Stop When the Red Lights Flash

Letterbomb

Stray Heart

Oh Love

Holiday

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Burnout

Disappearing Boy

Sweet Home Alabama / Sweet Child o’ Mine / Highway to Hell

2000 Light Years Away

Going to Pasalacqua

Brain Stew

St. Jimmy

When I Come Around

Longview

Basket Case

She

King for a Day

Shout / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction / Hey Jude

X-Kid

Minority

Encore:

American Idiot

Jesus of Suburbia

Brutal Love

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