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Green Day live!

| July 15, 2009

United Center, Chicago
Monday, July 13, 2009


If there were such a thing as a punk rock year book, Green Day’s entry would be on the “least likely to succeed” page. Graduates of the famed 24 Gillman Street shit hole, the Berkley trio were at one time indistinguishable from the now countless bands that called that squat their ground zero.

For full-color photo galleries of Monday’s show, visit!

Then, in the same era that punk broke (1994), the band fled an indie for a major, released Dookie, sold 10 million copies of it and became  MTV staples. The next decade saw the band’s record sales and audience sizes oscillate wildly before 2004’s “American Idiot” finally cemented their reputation as bona fide rock stars

The tour in support of that records follow-up (21st Century Breakdown) is what brought them to a near-capacity United Center on a perfect summer’s eve in the city by the lake. And from the first stomp of the distortion pedal, front man Billie Joe Armstrong seemed determined to live up to his newfound status. Working the stage like a hyperactive 10 year old on a steady diet of Sugar Smacks, the aging punk was the definition of perpetual motion.

Unfortunately, some of that showmanship was bundled with hockey rink clichés. The clad-in-black singer actually induced a Wave, barked “Chicago, are you ready!” a few million times and dropped more f-bombs than an entire season of The Sopranos. He even pulled a young kid (“Jack” from Evanston) up on stage for a mock, backwoods exorcism. 


None of it was necessary because when the band focused on playing, it became immediately apparent that their music is now big enough to put the front row in rapture and still connect with the nosebleeds. Anchoring it all was the titanic drumming of Tre Cool, whose military precision lock stepped with the acrobatic bass runs of Mike Dirnt during classics like “Longview,” “Basket Case,” and even goofball segue way riffs on dinosaurs like Van Halen, Ozzy, and Metallica.

New songs “The Static Age,”  “21 Guns,” and the album’s title track shed most of their studio cellulite in the live setting, leaving only bone, sinew and facelift tight arrangements in their wake and begging the question: Why the bloat to begin with?

It’s a question the band never really answered over the course of a nearly two and a half hour show. With a set list and a catalog that plays like a jukebox on Meth, they should have accrued the confidence by now to let the music do the talking. Although the misfit’s derelict humor (at least in their songwriting) may be a thing of the past, why overcompensate with kitschy gimmicks and arena-rock pandering.

While thundering away during “American Idiot,” “Minority,” and the epic, multi-suite “Jesus Of Suburbia,” the six musicians (three additional players expand the lineup for this tour) left the Vegas-inspired bullshit in the rearview mirror and showed just how majestic, powerful and important the band could not only sound, but feel.

Then Armstrong emerged alone at the end of a runway that extended to the middle of the arena for the obligatory “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).” And with a single spotlight and an acoustic guitar, he proved that a quite moment can be even more affecting than a trumped up light show and pyrotechnic flash pots.

Curt Baran

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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