Friday, July 24, 2009

Give Me Novacaine

Wow, it's been a long time since I last posted. I've meant to. No, really, I have some great rants in reserve, but today I want to write about one of the most amazing concert experiences in my life while it's still fresh in my head.

Green Day was in town on Tuesday and I was there, on the floor, 10 feet away from the stage. It was my first time seeing Green Day live and I was not disappointed. I've heard some of their live music and I've heard all the rave about their shows, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. Let me be honest: I'm not the hugest, die hard Green Day fan in the entire world. I am a huge fan of theirs, though, especially in the last five years or so. I loved "Dookie" (of course, who didn't?), "American Idiot", and especially "21st Century Breakdown". I also enjoyed many of their songs in between. I have always been amazed at how they keep getting older but still nail it on the head with the younger generation. They get it. They understand how we feel. I'm not exactly "young" anymore, but I'm young enough to have grown up listening to Green Day. The crowd on Tuesday was mostly young, high school and college age, but also some others that looked my age or older (although most of the older ones were dragged there by their kids).

First Green Day concert... floor seats, bitches!

So anyway, I got off work and hopped the subway down to the Spectrum. Being that this was one of the last concerts ever in the Spectrum, the whole night felt a little more special. I got my tickets from Will Call while listening to Green Day warm up from outside ("American Eulogy"), changed clothes, and met up with Sarah, my future sister-in-law Becky, and my best man Kyle. I have been to many a concert with Sarah and Kyle. We have been on the floor, getting knocked around at many raucous punk shows. This was, however, Becky's first rock show on the floor, but she held her own surprisingly well. We tailgated, drinking a few beers and chatting before the doors opened. When the doors opened, we headed in and grabbed some crab fries and a couple more beers before heading down to the floor, soon after The Bravery was finished with their set. We took our positions and got ready for the lights to dim. While we waited, we were entertained by a drunk guy in a pink bunny suit that was dancing and stumbling around the stage for a good 10 minutes before he went backstage again. When Green Day did finally come on (around 9:15 or so), it was a non-stop adrenaline rush for over two hours.

A picture of Mike Dirnt, just because

Billie Joe opened with "21st Century Breakdown" then followed it up with "Know Your Enemy", and "East Jesus Nowhere". I had peeked at a setlist beforehand so I kind of knew what was coming, but it was still amazing. The sound was so full and perfect. Billie Joe was jumping and running around on stage, pulling people out of the audience, and then telling them to "get the fuck off my stage". During "East Jesus Nowhere", a very religiously-charged song, he called a small girl on stage to imitate a scene out of a southern Baptist church of someone being saved before telling the girl to get off his stage.

Billie Joe and the first girl he pulled on stage to sing with him, for "Are We the Waiting"

They followed that up with "Holiday", "The Static Age", and "Before the Lobotomy", which is one of my favorite songs from the new album. They then dipped into "American Idiot", not losing a step while playing "Are We the Waiting", "St. Jimmy", and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". One of my favorite songs, "Hitchin' A Ride", was next and then they dipped into some real old stuff. They played "2,000 Light Years Away" and, later, "King for a Day", during which the entire band wore silly hats. Billie Joe donned a police cap, while Mike Dirnt wore pink bunny ears, and Tre Cool wore a type of white Sunday church hat.

It's not too easy to see, but Mike is wearing pink bunny ears and Tre is wearing a white Sunday hat.

They played a string of older songs, including "Welcome to Paradise", "Brain Stew", "Jaded", "Longview", "Basket Case", and "She" before launching into an Isley Brothers cover of "Shout". They ended with "21 Guns" and "American Eulogy" before coming back out to play their encore. The encore consisted of five songs: "American Idiot", "Jesus of Suburbia" (!!), "Minority", and then an acoustic performance of single verses of "Words I Might Have Ate" and "Give Me Novacaine", followed by "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" to end the show.

Billie Joe, playing "21 Guns"

The setlist was great and the band sounded awesome, but what was really cool is the way Billie Joe interacted with the audience. They hadn't even sung a song yet and he already had someone up on stage, asking them how they felt tonight. He frequently brought people onto the stage with him, including a girl to help sing "Are We the Waiting" and three different people to sing the three verses of "Longview", including one whom he prompted to do a stage dive off the runway portion of the stage. The most incredible, though, was during their encore, when Billie Joe asked the audience if anyone knew how to play guitar. He then said, "does anyone here know how to play Jesus of Suburbia?" About 10,000 hands flew into the air and there was much deliberation until he picked a guy near the front on the floor. He hopped on stage and, upon looking out at the crowd, put his hands on his head in disbelief. He was about to play one of Green Day's most well-known and well-liked songs in front of about 40,000 people. Also, the song is over 9 minutes long. The guy didn't miss a beat though. He took Billie Joe's guitar and started jumping around the stage, doing his best AC/DC impression. He looked like a rock star out there and Billie Joe looked like a genius (we wondered later how many times that has blown up in his face).

This guy was rocking out to "Jesus of Suburbia" with Bille Joe's guitar

The rendition of "Jesus of Suburbia" was fantastic. I haven't heard many live songs that were better than it. I love seeing bands having fun and getting the audience involved during their concerts. It shows me that they really get it. They know that it's part of their job to do that and they enjoy the adoration and idolization that they get from their rabid fan base. Billie Joe made about 10 people's nights and probably their lives on Tuesday by having them on stage singing or playing with him. One guy actually full-on kissed him on the lips and without missing a beat, Billie Joe kissed him back. It was probably the most fun show I've ever been to.

One of the best parts about the show, though, was that, although there was some pushing and shoving, nobody really got out of hand. I counted three crowd surfers the entire show. There was one douche-nozzle who was acting rambunctious before the show, elbowing people in the head and calling the girls around him "bitches" (including Sarah and Becky), but I gave him a short jab to the head and he calmed down after that. I think that everyone was too mesmerized to even care about moshing or crowd surfing, to be honest. Billie Joe's frequent calls of "Hey oh!", to which the crowd would respond in turn with a "hey oh" of their own, and his prompts for the crowd to sing along were enough to keep the entire audience enthralled for a full two and a half hours. I even snuck a peek at a couple of the event staff personnel getting into the show.

Billie Joe, wrapping it up acoustic-style with "Give Me Novacaine/Good Riddance"

In all, they played 28 songs and by the time we walked out, the time was approaching midnight. We were exhausted and sweaty and thirsty. I ended up buying a t-shirt from a street vendor since the line inside was too long, only to find out that the shirt was accidentally reversible. The screen print was on the inside-out side of the shirt and on the other side was a graphic promoting the recent boxing match in Philly. Wonderful. I ended up ordering a tour shirt from their website to make up for it. By the time we got home, it was almost two in the morning and I got about 4 hours of sleep before I had to wake up for work the next morning. I was exhausted (I took a 5-Hour Energy and still fell asleep on the train), and I think I'm still feeling the effects of it, but it was well worth it. I thank Green Day for putting on such an amazing show, one that instantly ranks in the top 3 of the best shows I have ever seen and one that I will never forget.

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