Loyal fans know that when Green Day comes to town, Billie Joe Armstrong will invite some eleven-year-old kid up to play his guitar every goddamn time. He’s been doing it since the punk outfit started packing arenas in 1994. And we’ve not grown tired of it, any more than we’ve grown tired of the band's classic power-chord-driven songs.
The Wednesday, August 9, concert at Fiddler’s Green was no exception. This was a high-energy performance packed with fans of every generation, replete with a dramatic fireworks show, flamethrowers, water hoses, and a nostalgic familiarity everyone hungered for. And Armstrong, he’s just as silly as ever.
Part of what’s so compelling about the members of Green Day is that after three decades of making music, they remain informed and passionate about the world around them, whether they’re belting out lyrics about class and gender in earlier gems like 1997’s “King for a Day” or 1994’s “Welcome to Paradise,” or outright giving Donald Trump the bird while chanting “No Racism, No Sexism, No Homophobia!” during the 2004 song “Holiday.”
At times, it was hard not to roll my eyes at the band’s overly positive messages; after all, the struggle for social justice is more nuanced than “equality for the masses.”
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But I began to understand, song after song, that Armstrong was not singing to me, the snarky know-it-all gender-studies university faculty member. Armstrong sings for that eleven-year-old kid who’s still figuring life out and is probably angry about it. I was that kid in 1994, and I have three tattoos to prove it.
For so many in the crowd, the songs from the band’s 2016 album, Revolution Radio, seemed to spark something inside them – maybe for the first time: a hunger, a rage, a battle to understand each other in the midst of a politically confusing and unpredictable era for our nation.
Armstrong pled for us to put down our cell phones, to see each other's faces, to live in the moment with each other, with no more lies. This was a gathering for and by the underdogs. And we surrendered, willingly.