Welcome to paradise. Or, rather, for a die-hard Green Day fan, the 700-person underground venue the Echoplex in Echo Park, CA. A day ago, the Bay Area veteran punk rockers announced a real venue “secret” show (unlike the botched attempt at their Burbank BBQ joint shindig) with tickets selling at 10am Monday morning. When the clock struck 10, lucky fast-fingered Green Day fans were treated to the instant gratification of an almost-intimate (in Green Day terms) 24-song set.
The excited crowd ranged from older Kerplunk-era audiophiles to children wearing headphones. Perched on shoulders, this new generation of Green Day lovers delightedly sweat to the oldies amidst a dank, steamy crowd that could have easily been plucked from a punk rock ’90s time capsule–albeit with the facial wrinkles of time juxtaposed against crisply ironed blacks instead of the bedroom-floor fatigues of teenage years.
40-year-old Billie Joe Armstrong, who started in the band as a teenager himself on Green Day’s Lookout! Records début 39/Smooth, seemingly still understands this adolescent angst. His practically ageless face contorted effortlessly into impish mischief while his agile frame pogo’d, gathering height while inciting the crowd with expletives.
With over two decades worth of “dress rehearsal” under their studded belts, varying from dilapidated squat houses to major international arenas, Green Day have mastered the art of working a crowd. Throughout the set, Armstrong peacocked, grinding away at his guitar during dramatic musical pauses, and pacing the stage while gesturing for the crowd to call-and-response his vibrato’d “heys.”
Armstrong left the talking to the new music, not revealing anything too newsworthy other than his dislike of the cold and his lack of care about who was playing the free indie night at the Echo club upstairs.
Besides their new music, which Green Day played with a bombastic fervor that overshadowed the self-service classics, the band’s fans had no problem singing along and gesturing as if they’d been following Green Day Dead-style for the last twenty years.
Even if the audience couldn’t sing along, Green Day’s new music was greeted with wide-eyed excitement, fans attempted to mouth words they didn’t quite know yet. While a bit poppier, dance-driven, and theatrical than their previous sound, Green Day’s new songs aren’t just plug-and-play grown-up punk rock. They are a mash-up of Green Day’s old-school influences with marketable mainstreamer fare.
The setlist, below, showed this obvious diversity of sound in a perfectly curated two hour gig.
1. “Welcome to Paradise”
2. “American Idiot”
3. “Nuclear Family”
5. “Stay the Night”
6. “Carpe Diem”
7. “Let Yourself Go”
8. “Murder City”
9. “Hitchin’ a Ride”
10. “2,000 Light Years Away”
11. “Knowledge” (Operation Ivy cover)
13. “Oh Love”
14. “Dominated Love Slave”
15. “Kill The DJ”
16. “Christie Road”
18. “Brain Stew”
19. “St. Jimmy”
21. “Give Me Novacaine”
22. “Stray Heart”
23 . “Wild One”
24. “It’s F**k Time”
The band has undoubtedly learned something from the rock opera fame of American Idiot playing up on narrative lyrics, grandiose transitions, and danceable percussion that makes the eclectic Green Day the quintessential all-American sweethearts–whether they like it or not.
And they seem to like it, nay, love it because the trio has milked their forthcoming threesome of new albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! via the magic of the internet. The band and their camp has left no social media stone unturned or positive critique un-retweeted.
For the last few months, Green Day has teased fans with trailers, pieces of new songs, and mysterious tweets, all culminating in their secret performance which, for Green Day, masters of the live show, was the purest, truest way to hear their new music.
“What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with this picture? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this picture,” said Armstrong pointing the crowd while swathed in a cloud of amber smoke, as raw and natural as he ever was. Staring up into the ever-youthful face of Armstrong, who in turn looked out to a sea of air-punching firsts, it was clear Armstrong was right; there was nothing wrong with this timeless picture.
¡Uno! will be available September 25th with the ¡Dos! following on September 13th and ¡Tre!, on January 15th.
–Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles