Of all three headliners for this year’s Reading and Leeds, seeing Green Day’s name at the top of the posters makes the most sense. Over the years they’ve played the twin festivals on numerous occasions. From when they were fresher faced and further down the bill to last year’s secret set, they’ve become part of the event’s identity. They are the archetypal Reading and Leeds band and, come bank holiday weekend, they will be embedding themselves in the festivals’ history once more.
On Friday night (July 12), the band played their final show before the big weekend at Portugal’s Optimus Alive festival. It’s probably the clearest indication of what to expect, although chances are if you’ve seen Green Day since the release of ‘American Idiot’ in 2004 you can already guess what’ll unfold.
No Green Day show would be complete without a little goofing about. At Optimus, Billie Joe Armstrong whipped out some industrial sized super soakers to spray the crowd with before covering them with toilet paper shot out of a giant gun placed over his groin. Maintaining that cheeky, youthful sense of humour, the band donned costumes for the now traditional dress-up moment during ‘King For A Day’, with drummer Tre Cool weirdly suiting his get up of wide rimmed hat, oversized glasses and lacy pink bra.
There’s a fine line between caricature and showmanship that Green Day like to tread. Occasionally they threaten to tumble over it into parody but there’s no denying that they know how to work a crowd. As night fell in Lisbon, Armstrong had the audience in the palm of his hand, hey ho-ing, pogoing and going crazy just as he instructed them to. Every faux sulky look was met by cheers growing louder and louder with fans trying to put a smile back on his face whilst his gestures akin to a flamboyant conductor filled the space in the front of the stage with a sea of waving arms. If this is the reaction in Portugal expect it to be even wilder at a festival where the band are so beloved and have such history.
For veteran Green Day fans at Reading and Leeds, there may be some disappointments in store though. Where you would expect them to end a triumphant headline set on ‘Time Of Your Life’, they chose to finish on ‘Brutal Love’, with the former admonished from the setlist. Of the 28 songs played, only nine were what could be called “classic” Green Day but when you’ve got a back catalogue as vast as the Californian punks though, getting the balance right to please everyone is nearly impossible.
2013 will be the second time Green Day have headlined Reading and Leeds and their only pre-announced return since closing the main stage for the first time in 2004. Whether they choose to revamp their set in the next month or keep it much the same as at Optimus they’re guaranteed to put on quite a show.