Green Day at Marlay Park, Dublin June 27th 2022
Marlay Park’s summer concert series has attracted a set of slightly ageing big guns this week. Pop-punk icons Green Day headlining the Hella Mega Tour was always going to grab a packed crowd given the sparkling live reputation of a band that have become a timeless example of their genre.
A few days ago, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong found himself in the headlines when he announced, at a London show, that he intended to relinquish his American citizenship in protest at the overturning of Roe v Wade. It’s always been clear in Green Day’s lyrics that they don’t see their country favourably: that they want change, for people to vocally protest and progress the US. Their music punches up, but with wit and self-deprecation, and in a modern era, that works.
First, though, we have Fall Out Boy, who pack a punch with hits like the fiery ‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race’, and ‘Thks Fr Th Mmrs’, and Weezer, who offer a Toto cover and a bass-led rendition of ‘Buddy Holly’. But there’s no question what the main event is here.
A full ten minutes before Green Day appear, we’re treated to what’s become a traditional first elements of their set: the audience belting out Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. That’s followed by someone in the world’s dirtiest bunny costume strutting on stage to leap around to The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, and the big screens showing us a hype video that feels almost like a pre-match launch event.
It works: by the time Billie Joe and co arrive on stage to pelt straight into ‘American Idiot’, our spot, perhaps 60 to 70 metres from the front, has expanded to create an impromptu mosh pit. An almost unreasonable distance from the band themselves, we’re one song in and it’s all kicking off, the boisterous band and the crowd channelling each other’s energy
For all their controlled chaos on stage, Green Day are remarkably good at reproducing their recorded sound live. ‘American Idiot’, ‘Holiday’ and a rare newer song in ‘Know Your Enemy’ are insanely energetic, a kind of opening salvo during which the band milk a reception that all feels more ‘five pints deep’ than ‘Monday night’.
‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is a joyous sing-along, before we’re treated to a tour of Green Day’s earlier material, taking in the jagged bass of ‘Brain Stew’, the bitter melodies of ‘Longview’ and ‘Welcome to Paradise’, and a throwaway excursion into Kiss’ ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’.
In fact, there’s little in the way of new material here at all. The younger members of the audience go wild for ‘21 Guns’ but in the most part this set could have taken place firmly in the ‘American Idiot’ era, with Green Day having perfected the art of turning their finest moments from ‘Dookie’ and ‘Nimrod’ into a sound that’s more stadium-ready anthems and less scuzzy early pop-punk. Ska-influenced ‘King For A Day’ and bedroom anthem ‘Basket Case’ are riddled with teenage frustrations and oddities, soaring journeys of comic malcontent converted into pure communal fun.
In amongst it all is Operation Ivy’s ‘Knowledge’, which comes complete with a really quite impressive rock out on guitar from an audience member who goes home with a lifetime of memories and a new Green Day axe. There’s a nod to that slightly odd country-punk phase the band went through with the flippant ‘Minority’, and another glorious anthemic lights-up moment in ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’. The whole thing is punctuated with fireworks, bangs, and some trippy fading effects on the big screens.
The encore is nothing more than Billie Joe strutting back on stage with an acoustic guitar and leading a fawning audience through ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, a slightly abrupt close (we seem to be touching curfew), but exactly the closing cool down the chaos needed. Simple but highly effective after the barrage of bouncing that preceded it.
If you could level a criticism at Green Day – and we do so slightly reluctantly – it’s that they’re not exactly evolving, at least not live. In fact, the setlist tonight bears a remarkable resemblance to the first time your reviewer saw them play, at MK Bowl way back in 2005, featuring 15 of the same tracks in a 20/21 song setlist, including one identical cover, and a very similar set order. Similarly, those who attended in Kilmainham in 2017 will have experienced 17 of the same tracks, the same intro music, the same opener and closer and two of the same covers. To say that you know what you’re going to get when you go to a Green Day show is something of an understatement.
Still, the advantage of that consistency is that the band are superb at it. They don’t appear bored doing such sets: quite the opposite, Green Day shows are a love in, crammed with a vibrant energy that flows effortlessly to mosh pits half way back through the crowd, mass sing-alongs and glorious pop-punk cabaret.
They’re also a celebration of their music’s diversity: under this stadium rock cabaret there’s still the three-piece punk band that started out, and occasionally it shines through. There’s also the massive mid-00s emo-influenced act producing almost mournful politically-laden rock songs, and a band who, in tracks like ‘King For A Day’, are still living their teenage fantasies of glorious shining silliness.
They pack punch, have moments of vocal aggression and anger, moments of subtle affection, and so, so many moments of the type of pure communal joy that leaves your voice struggling the day after. Live, Green Day still succeed where their contemporaries are falling away because they know what they’re good at, and they truly connect with their audience. It might be the same setlist in another ten years time, too, but we’ll be there, bouncing like idiots, regardless.