At some point during Green Day‘s final gig of their 2009 U.S. tour, Tuesday night at L.A.’s Forum–it was either when Billie Joe Armstrong whipped out a NASCAR-style T-shirt gun and started lobbing free tees into the 17,000 capacity crowd, or maybe when the red/white/blue confetti cannons went off, or when the band started covering “Stairway To Heaven” (seriously)–I reached for my mobile and texted a friend somewhere inside the stadium:
“Wow. I guess Green Day really aren’t a punk band anymore,” I typed.
“Nope,” he texted back straight away. “Just a GREAT AMERICAN ROCK BAND.”
And my friend was right. From the moment Billie Joe kicked off Green Day’s positively Springsteenian three-hour L.A. concert by hollering, “This is the last show of our tour and we’re gonna fucking play all night long!” (following not-at-all slouchy opening act Franz Ferdinand, who ended their own set accompanied by kilt-clad bagpipers and swathed in reams of toilet paper), this was a giant rock ‘n’ roll circus.
I’m talking “Radio Gaga”-style clapalongs; enough pyro explosions to singe the eyebrows of the fans in the Forum’s most distant nosebleed seats; breakdancing courtesy of bassist Mike Dirnt; a saxophone player dressed up as Thriller-era Michael Jackson; Billie Joe’s multiple Christ poses; a drunk furry pink bunny leading the crowd in a group dance to the Village People‘s “YMCA”; and an unexpected series of bizarre covers (along with the aforementioned Led Zep classic, the band also played snippets of Van Halen‘s “Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love,” Guns N’ Roses‘ “Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” the Isley Brothers‘ “Shout,” the Beastie Boys‘ “Girls,” the Doors‘ “Break On Through,” the Rolling Stones‘ “Satisfaction,” Tom Petty‘s “Free Fallin,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama” reimagined as “Sweet Home California”).
No, it was not very punk. But so what? Anyone who’s followed Green Day’s two-decade transformation from pimply Gillman Street teens to world-dominating rock-operatists shouldn’t have expected anything less than an all-out extravaganza. (“This is a rock show, not a motherfucking tea party,” Billie Joe informed those in the Forum who’d dared to sit down during a rare downtime moment. “You listen to Coldplay on your own motherfucking time!”) And I’d personally rather see Billie Joe Armstrong prance around in a cop cap and feather boa in front of a giant electrical American flag while dousing fans with a Supersoaker than watch some grimy little punk show, anyway.
Highlights of Green Day’s triumphant L.A. show included….
The band bringing a fan onstage to sing the entire lead vocal on “Longview,” which was probably The Best Moment of that kid’s life:
Another fan hopping up onstage to play guitar on all nine minutes of “Jesus Of Surburbia” (after a chugging a full beer upon Billie’s orders), then stagediving back into the fray:
Billie Joe in full-on evangelical preacherman mode, “saving” two sinner children plucked from the audience:
Now that was a great American rock ‘n’ roll show, people.