So you release a career-defining concept album that bags you Grammys and solidifies your position as one of the world’s biggest bands. What next? Well, first put your feet up for a couple of years. Then shun convention and return to your roots, record some back-to-basics garage clatter and kick off your first tour in almost 32 months in a 300-capacity club in backwater Little Rock, Arkansas.
For 20 years, Green Day have been proudly laughing at the designated industry road-signs. And tonight is no different, as their not-so-secret alter-egos Foxboro Hot Tubs take to the stage at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom. Coming off two ultra-hush-hush warm-up shows, Billie Joe Armstrong – who introduces himself with a smirk as “the Reverend Strychnine Twitch” – gets into the spirit immediately, yelling, “We’re going to get drunk tonight!” And with that promise, he unleashes the retina-scorching riff of ‘Stop Drop And Roll’, the title track from the side-project’s recently unleashed album.
We all know Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt have the stamina of Olympic athletes, so characteristically the pace doesn’t let up throughout a two-hour rampage of spiky rocket-pop anthems. This is garage rock in glorious overdrive, full of gleefully swiped riffs and Neanderthal hollering. It’s not worlds removed from Green Day’s punk racket, of course, but distant enough that the crowd, many of whom queued for 12 hours to be part of this, will still be refreshed. Contagious energy, as always with Green Day, is the victor. For a man of Billie Joe’s experience he exhibits a youth-shaming amount of bouncing, fist-pumping and riling, as he holds court with a big mop of peroxide-blond hair and red, heart-shaped sunglasses (some kind of half-arsed disguise). He wields his mic cord like a coachmaster’s whip, welcomes showers of stagedivers with open arms and regularly dips his face into the swirl of the front row.
Later, during a frenetic take on the Chesterfield Kings-esque ‘Ruby Room’, he downs most of a big can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the brand of beer he namechecks in the song, before pouring the leftovers on his head. Fittingly, the night’s only Green Day track, the buoyant ‘Blood, Sex And Booze’, follows, inspiring unified mania. It’s a punky sledgehammer set alongside complementary slabs ‘Highway 1’, ‘Dark Side Of Night’ and ‘Red Tide’.
There’s even a short encore, the band throwing in a bulked-up version of The Who’s ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ with Armstrong swan-diving into the crowd at the climax. Splayed out and held up, he screams, “You are forgiven!” And that’s the thing with Foxboro Hot Tubs/Green Day/whoever: through the guises, secret records and stadium-slaying there’s still, at this moment, no hotter band in America.