I’m Still Breathing: Green Day at Aragon Chicago

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When I first saw Green Day in 2013 on their 99 Revolutions tour, I thought it was phenomenal. Plenty of people had their complaints, but I couldn’t be happier. There were moments during that show that are still special to me. So imagine my surprise when Green Day managed to top themselves for their stop at Aragon Ballroom. Everything about it was better than before, from the setlist to the crowd. It was an unbelievable moment I’ll never forget that I almost missed out on.

Long story short, I didn’t get tickets. I tried for two hours to no avail. I considered the VividSeats route, but something told me to wait. I turned to the Green Day Community boards hoping someone would somehow have an extra. Thanks to some communication and help from fellow GD fans, I met someone who had an extra and wanted to take me. I could hardly believe I had an in to one of the biggest shows of the year. I’m normally a very shy, private person, so it surprised even me that I agreed to go with someone I never met before. Just a year ago I probably would’ve refused and just wallow in my misery at home. But I’m glad I did it. I met some great GD fans and hopefully, made a new friend in the process.

On to the show. I didn’t check out Dog Party prior to the concert, so I didn’t know what to expect. I actually really liked them. They have that kickass, slacker punk rock sound that fits well for a Green Day show. They were much better than 2013 openers Best Coast. I especially enjoyed their slow-burning cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” But I was impatient and ready to see Billie and crew! Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for them to hop on stage. But before Green Day made an appearance, it was time for the massive “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along. This is still one of my favorite concert moments. It’s everyone banding together singing an epic song and enjoying themselves.

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Like with every show, the drunk bunny came out while “Blitzkrieg Bop” played in the background. After properly riling up the crowd, Green Day sauntered on stage. They kicked things off to a roar with “Know Your Enemy,” which took me by surprise. I was sure one of the new songs would open the show. Still, it was a great way to rally up the crowd and just a taste of what the next 2 hours were going to be. Of course “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” followed, which got the crowd fired up. If you thought those songs were amazing on record, wait till you hear them live. Somehow the band puts more fire, energy, and drive behind them once they hit the stage. From there they launched into the obligatory songs: “Holiday,” “Longview,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Though they played these on their last tour, they’re still a blast to hear live. All the songs are so much fun and hearing thousands of people sing “When masturbation lost its fun/you’re fucking lonely” is a rare treat. Even hearing Billie say “LIGHTS OUT!” during “Holiday” was exciting. He’s done it hundreds of times, but to fans it never gets old. We devour every precious minute the band is on that stage.

Green Day reach into their past material on this tour and it wasn’t any different in Chicago. Fans in the know properly freaked out when they launched into “Private Ale” from Kerplunk. They also churned out favorites “2000 Light Years Away” and “Christie Road,” which Billie started off soft and gentle before having the rest of the band join him. I was most excited to hear tracks like “Armatage Shanks” and “Scattered,” key tracks from “Nim-rad” as Billie pronounced it. But the moment where I knew something special was happening was “Hitchin’ a Ride.” Sure, it’s not a rare song in their setlist, but they didn’t play it last time in Chicago. So I freaked out. Billie extended the song with extra hoopin’ and hollering, begging the crowd to join him as Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt kept the steady beat. Billie proved to be a tease when he decided we weren’t cheering loud enough and turned his back on the crowd as if to say “I don’t want to play with you anymore!” Yeah, maybe it’s cheesy but I loved every minute of it.

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It always impresses what a great showman Billie is. Even if he was lying, he did everything to make sure Chicago was well loved, saying things like “We’ve been coming here since 1990!” and the city being the best – typical stage banter. But since it was such a huge weekend for our Cubs, he made sure to mention it and even said, “Looks like you finally killed that fucking goat.” At one point, someone threw a Cubs hat on stage. Billie knew what to do – he put it on and said, “I feel like this is pandering.” It may have been, but hey it worked.

The way Billie commands the crowd to sing “Hey-oh” or to “put those fucking hands in the air!” it’s like being in church. When you hear the sweet opening chords to “Burnout” or “Basket Case” you lose a part of yourself. Your mind, body, and spirit are taken by the music and the amazing band on stage. This was proven by countless sing-alongs, with the most emotional being “Still Breathing.” Billie introduced the song by saying “Sometimes you end up going to survival mode in hard times. But the great thing about survival mode, is you survive. This song’s for you.” From there, the entire venue sang the song back to him as he smiled and looked on.

The crowd exploded during cuts like “St. Jimmy,” “She,” and “When I Come Around,” where Billie handed off guitar duties to one lucky fan, who kicked major ass. They also pulled out “Youngblood” from the new album, which was an unexpected treat to hear live. Then, of course, came “King for a Day.” This is now a Green Day live staple and it’s never dull. They may pull the same silly costumes, though this time BJA sported a cute captain’s hat while Mike wore his own mask, the same sax solos, and same random song covers, but you can’t deny how much fun it is. Jason Freese killed it on the sax, while Billie joined him on kazoo, but the best was the impromptu “Carless Whisper” solo. Before launching into “Shout” Billie laid on the floor, as usual, and talked about how everyone needs a little love. The breakdown included brief covers of “Hey Jude” and “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).” At one point Billie said “Now you’re going to adopt me. My new home is Chicago.” He probably says the same thing in every city, but it was hard not to go crazy at that moment.

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Green Day kept up the non-stop energy with “Forever Now,” which saw Billie smash his guitar, “American Idiot,” and the epic “Jesus Of Suburbia.” Hearing those songs live with more vigor and venom than the recording never gets old. For the last encore, Billie slowed things down with “Ordinary World” mixed with “Good Riddance,” which pleased the hell out of me. In 2013, they passed over this song in favor of “Brutal Love,” which is great, but it’s awesome to hear such an iconic song live. Afterward, the band signed off with Tre and Mike sporting their own masks and tossing some gifts into the crowd. It was sad to see them go, but it was on to the next city for the band.

Green Day is a sheer force of energy live. They feed off the vibes of the crowd and give it back to them one thousand percent. Watching them play leaves me awestruck. When I wasn’t singing or dancing, I just looked at how hard these guys play. Billie attacks his guitar to the point where it seems like he’s losing control. Tre hits the drums with so much force it’s like he’s calling on the thunder gods. And Mike plays the bass like a beast. Plus, I enjoyed watching his faces and kicking his feet in the air while playing. And damn, can those guys get height while jumping. Seeing the pictures of them frozen in the air makes you wonder how the hell they got so high. Their shows are one big fucking party. In between songs, like “Letterbomb,” Billie stopped to say “We are all alive tonight!” and made a pact with the crowd to push out the negativity of the world. It was clear the band wanted to have a good time and made sure the crowd had fun as well. They somehow managed to top themselves to put on an unbelievable and intimate show. There was no pyro, special effects, screens, or stage stunts. Instead, it was just us, Green Day, and the music. And it made for something special.

Thank you, Green Day, for being an incredible band.

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