In the end it took a man in a giant Scooby Doo suit to melt State’s heart. We’d approached Marley Park on a balmy summer’s evening, not with a spring in our step but more with realisation of what was ahead of us – an admittedly great band gurning their way through two and a half hours of crowd pleasing antics at the expense of their fine music. And then Scooby Doo appeared, hauled from the front row to jump around a bit, tie an Irish flag around his neck and then hurl himself back into the outstretched arms of the masses. You’d need to be a pretty cold hearted type not to let it raise a smile, and State is anything but.
Certainly not when it comes to Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who we have fond memories of from our youth. Their appearance here tonight is certainly a surprise move but one that pays off, with a crowd young enough to be her offspring discovering that there was always a lot more to her career than that one hit. Quite possibly the coolest band on site, the likes of ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Crimson & Clover’ have enough of a resonance in these days of The Gaslight Anthem and Hold Steady to suggest that, if the right people took up her cause, she could quite possibly find herself doing more than propping up bills like this.
Jett would certainly approve of Paramore‘s Hayley Williams, who has done much to carry her mantle into the 21st century. Sadly we like the idea of Paramore a touch more than the reality tonight, when they don’t really manage to connect beyond the bouncing front of the field. From where our aged limbs are standing, it all sounds a little like junior starter punk but we’re happy to come back and see them on their own terms in November.
And so to do Green Day. We’ve been here before, as recently as October at the O2 and little has changed. OK, nothing has changed. If we thought that knowing what was ahead would somehow soften the blow, we were wrong. Not even our friend dressed as a cartoon dog can disguise that this is the sight and sound of a band who – live at any rate – stagnated around eight years ago. The points we made here still stand but to recap, this is the equivalent of meeting Nelson Mandela and discovering he’s wearing a pair of fake breasts underneath his traditional robes. To see a band who managed not only to save their career but produce a work so complete as American Idiot still reduced to fooling around in women’s clothing while doing stupid covers is simply disheartening. For the record Billie Joe a lot of crowd participation, arm waving, drinks a pint of Guinness, drops his trousers, fires toilet rolls and T-shirts into the crowd and tells us that, just like Helsinki and Glasgow before, we are the best audience in the world. And the stuff from Dookie and American Idiot is great, the rest less so.
So maybe we are just cold hearted after all, not to be moved by such jollity. We expect this to be greeted by howls as to how this was the best night of many people’s lives, which it probably was. It is our job to see the bigger picture, though, and to wonder how this dichotomy between the two Green Days will manifest itself in the future. Having made a second rate attempt at their serious side on 21st Century Breakdown, they may need to go back to the drawing board. Please God let them do it without reaching for the dressing up box.
Photo: Sean Conroy
Paramore / Joan Jett photos here.