RAGE and LOVE: Green Day calls for unity during North American tour

Joshua Lloyd, A&E Editor

    Punk rock is hitting the road, and Green Day’s at the wheel. Fresh off a five-day gig in   Canada, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool came to the Petersen Events Center for a wild night in Panther country. They’ve been crisscrossing North America and Europe since September, lighting fires (literally and figuratively) of togetherness and calling for peace and respect in these troubled times.

     The Saturday night concert was, in short, a Green Day tour de force. Drumsticks, t-shirts and a bra went flying, flames and explosions lit up the arena, Billie put on his usual antics and a drunken bunny that may or may not have been Tré Cool stumbled around to the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

     Of course, Billie Joe and company weren’t the only punks on hand. Laura Jane Grace and the rest of Against Me! kicked off the evening’s festivities with “Crash,” “Black Me Out” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” In between Laura’s angry growl and the rumble of the band’s guitars, the frontwoman, formerly the rocker known as Tom Gabel, reached out to the crowd:

     “You know, my very first show I ever went to was a Green Day show, so I know exactly how you feel right now… Just like you, I dyed my hair green before that show, and then I sweated a bunch and it dyed my skin green, be careful with that. But that show changed my f**king life, it made me want to start a punk band, it made me want to be up here on stage… And now, here we are. I know there’ll be at least one kid here tonight who goes home, starts their own f**kin’ band and goes on to change the world.”

     The night had only just begun; those to the left of the stage caught glimpses of a jet-black mess of hair darting behind the curtain. Accompanied by rhythm guitarist Jason White, saxophonist and keyboardist Jason Freese and vocalist Jeff Matika, Green Day stormed the stage and launched right into “Know Your Enemy.”

     “Bang Bang” and “Revolution Radio” were next on the set list, two big singles from their back-to-basics album released in October.
Billie was all smiles for the Petersen crowd. “We’re gonna laugh, we’re gonna cry, we’re gonna dance, we’re gonna rub up against each other… Tonight is about love and unity and respect, cause we gotta have each other’s backs now more than ever.”

     Indeed, the love is real, especially for the band’s legions of admirers. With his trademark “Ok, get your ass up here,” Billie summoned three different fans from the pit (mosh Pitt?) to the stage over the course of the show.

     A girl on the eve of her sixteenth birthday was last, as she joined the band on guitar for a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” Oh, and she got to keep the instrument. The fan involvement and guitar-gifting is a cherished Green Day tradition, dating all the way back to the “Insomnia” tour over twenty years ago.

     Timeless classics like “She,” “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” “Longview” and “Minority” also filled the electric airwaves in the packed arena.

     Jason Freese put on a saxophone clinic in the middle of “King for a Day,” throwing in bits of “Shout” and “Careless Whisper.”

     After the surging finale of “Forever Now,” the boys from Oakland (the “Pittsburgh of California,” per Billie Joe) took their leave. Well, almost. Within minutes, they were back on stage and tearing through “American Idiot” and all ten minutes of “Jesus of Suburbia.”

     The trio struck a pose after Billie’s acoustic renditions of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” as waves of confetti, emblazoned with the band’s name, rained down on the grateful crowd.

     The band will head to the Resch Center in Wisconsin (yes, Green Day in Green Bay) on March 30, then squeeze in a few more U.S. stops before shipping off to Australia and New Zealand.

     In the summer heat, the band will headline music festivals in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Spain and more European locales. Once they’re back on North American soil in August, it’ll be a nonstop thrill ride that culminates on the grand stage of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this September.

     This is Green Day at its best, standing at the forefront and reaching out to all corners of a divided world. “No racism, no sexism, no homophobia!” they screamed in unison midway through the set. The message is the same as it’s always been, but starting a revolution has never been this much fun.