Live review: Green Day @ the Pepsi CenterBy Nick Groke | August 18th, 2009 | 4 comments
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day greeted a nearly sold-out crowd Saturday night at the Pepsi Center — a far cry from the band’s start in California’s garage-punk scene. Photo by John Leyba.
It’s a long way from $4-a-head basement shows in Oakland, Calif., to a multi-trailer world stadium tour, especially for a trio of proudly idiotic punk kid-grownups. But three chords and a chorus can get you a headlining gig at one of the biggest venues in town if you know how to swing.
Green Day can prove it. The snot-punk trio, plus a three-man backup band, did just that Saturday for a marathon show at the Pepsi Center in front of a not-quite sold-out crowd of involved fans seemingly appreciative to see the band in Denver for the first time in nearly five years.
Jumping right past the crowded Warped Tour scene to a self-sustaining headline gig in major arenas takes some kind of spunk — or a rebellious lack of restraint. Since breaking through to mass audiences at Woodstock redux in 1994 — a show seen by more people on TV than in person — Green Day has grown just as big as the biggest acts.
Except, “This isn’t television, this is a Green Day show,” as lead singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong said with added unprintable emphasis early on. And from the start, he, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool sprinted through a set of songs more quickly than they covered the back-and-forth hustle from stage end to stage end.
From “21st Century Breakdown” to “Know Your Enemy,” through “Holiday” and “The Static Age,” the band covered all its newest ground from two popular albums, 2004′s “American Idiot” and this year’s “21st Century Breakdown.”
The latter is an album so prevalent that anyone who’s used an electronic device in the past six months should be familiar. “Do you know the enemy? Do you know your enemy?” As lyrics go, it’s as simple and rousing as anything from 1994′s “Dookie.”
The show only slowed down when the band emptied its songbook of old-school numbers like “Welcome to Paradise” from 1992′s “Kerplunk,” an album from which an entire decade of garage bands learned to play drums.
“Kerplunk,” though, was never written for an arena. It doesn’t translate.
What fills an 18,000-seat venue are anthems, like Van Halen’s version of “You Really Got Me,” which Green Day covered through a verse, and “American Idiot” from a multi-song encore.
The band’s old snottiness came through when Billie Joe stopped a song to ask the crowd to all make masturbation noises.
But if there’s still rebelliousness in Green Day, it’s that a garage-punk band of misfits has pushed its way onto the same stadium circuit once traveled by The Who 30 years ago. They’ve made it their own with a show full of young fun.
Nick Groke is a staff writer at The Denver Post and an occasional contributor to Reverb.
John Leyba is a staff photographer at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.