Having been around for nigh-on thirty years now, Green Day have completely mastered the art of crowd-pleasing. They arrive onstage to chorus of deafening explosions and pyrotechnics which shatter the veil of serenity normally found among the RHK surroundings. Billie Joe Armstrong is hyper and boyish as ever as he welcomes us all to join in his excitement. To his credit, it’s an offer that the crowd take no time to accept and the energy is palpable – this, ostensibly, is one for the fans.
That being said, if you’re not au fait with Green Day’s back catalogue it really doesn’t seem to matter. Contrary to the initial crowd reaction and the rules of almost every live performance ever given there is very little from tonight’s show that requires anything beyond a passing knowledge of the band. It’s a punk-y, self-aware display of interaction with fans, so much so that when ‘Longview’ is started Armstrong is off into the crowd to find a replacement vocalist. A girl with a slightly less-than-stellar set of pipes takes him up and delivers an energetic and hilarious take on the song; replete with jumping from the drum riser and a bit of a stage dive. Who doesn’t love this stuff? Even the rain fucked off for long enough to make people smile.
The biggest cheers of the night, surprising considering the mean age of the crowd, are for the ‘older’ songs – namely from Dookie and American Idiot. ‘When I Come Around’ results in the kind of bouncing mosh pit bands must dream about. Further back from the crowd there are scores of children up on shoulders mouthing every word, genuinely enthralled before what can only resemble an alien invasion to them.
A mid-set interval, which we’ll get to in a minute, is a much appreciated moment to let the dust settle. So far the gig has been breakneck in pace and witnessing the band sprint rings around each other is exhausting just to watch. This, presumably, is why all four members of the touring band are now on their backs singing ‘Careless Whisper’ in hushed tones. I say ‘Careless Whisper’ when in fact it’s a medley including ‘Shout’, ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, ‘(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’. A saxophonist belts out some ‘Baker Street’ and a jazzy solo before the band emerge in masks and costumes. It has all the irreverence of a Flaming Lips gig and the crowd responses to boot.
So here is proof that you need not be a Green Day fan to enjoy a Green Day gig. Very few bands can pull off a show like this without any real good-time songs, all you need is the crowd to appreciate what you’re doing – and they do.