Green Day @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 23/08/12
So then, this is a bit of a turn for the books, Green Day, multi-million selling, stadium filling, pop punk legends, playing their first UK gig in a few years in the intimate surroundings of the 2,000 capacity Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
When the show was announced not much more than 72 hours before doors opening it sold out within minutes and, as the crowd wait for the Berkley punks to take the stage (no support act tonight folks, this is all about one band and one band only) there is a true sense of anticipation in the air.
After drummer Tré Cool ‘opens’ the set with a purposely bad version of Dookie bonus track ‘All By Myself’ the band launch in ‘Welcome to Paradise’ to kick things off properly followed by ‘Burnout’. With the crowd going mental, they wheel out the new material from forthcoming album trilogy ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!. Playing five brand new tracks in a row is always risky business, and while none of the songs are particularly bad (‘Save the Night’ is quite good and the best of the bunch with recent single ‘Oh Love’ and ‘Nuclear Family’ sounding
strong too) they are typical of what has come to be expected of latter day Green Day – mid-paced songs for the masses that sound good in the car when breaking up the shite you are being subjected to on Radio One, though not a patch on their stronger (not necessarily older) material. When they do return to playing “familiar” songs the likes of ‘Holiday’ and ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ pick up the pace, but something seems lacking. This doesn’t feel like a Green Day show. Maybe it’s because the band aren’t used to playing such small venues. Maybe they are getting used to playing new material? Maybe they are simply slowing down? Whatever the reason, its been 40 minutes or so and things haven’t clicked.
Then it happens.
‘Hitchin’ a Ride’ staggers over the PA and it’s business as usual all of a sudden. Billie Joe commanding the crowd like a punk rock Freddy Mercury, songs start to get stretched out with jams and crowd participation (I think Billie Joe manages to do his “waay-oh”, call and answer routine about 1,000,000 times over the course of the night yet it never gets old. I mean how can a man just shouting noises electrify so many people? I don’t know but my god it works, and well) , the band seem to be feeling at ease and the night starts to have a feeling of a real
sense of occasion. No longer does it feel like a band just testing out material before they take it on the road proper, it feels like how it should have all night, a stadium band, one of the best stadium bands in the world, cramming a show into a tiny venue where you can see the expressions on their faces with your eyes not just via a big screen, and making it a night to remember. Crowd-pleasers such as ‘St Jimmy’, ‘She’, ‘Basket Case’ and ‘When I Come Around’ keep the atmosphere electric, fans get dragged (more than willingly) onstage to join in
with songs and there is a real party atmosphere in the building.
With ‘King for a Day’ turned into a free for all – there are horns, snippets of ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Shout’ and intentionally bad excerpts of Fun’s ‘We Are Young’ shoehorned in, all the members of the band taking turns on lead vocals – and ‘Minority’ closing the main set in style the encore is left to sum up the evening. ‘American Idiot’ sees them bouncing back onstage and hammering home that Green Day really are one of the best live bands around, but when they close with new song ’99 Revolutions’ it also shows that it is the band themselves and their showmanship that continues to give them that status, not the quality of their new recorded output. Hopefully, the release of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! in their entirety might just change that, despite the evidence laid on tonight.