Album Review: Green Day – Awesome As Fuck

“Mummy, for Christmas..”
There have been many reviews of Green Day’s latest live release that have compared Awesome As Fuck to 2005’s Bullet In A Bible. “It’s OK, but it’s no BIAB”, or something like that. Of course, a band should look to improve with each album (and you’d hope that this would also apply to live albums), but, for the purpose of this review, let’s forget that the 2005 live album even exists. While Bullet was a concert album – a CD that attempted to show the world what a Green Day concert experience is actually like – this is a collection of live performances from all over the world, from Glasgow to New York, Manchester to Nickelsdorf.
Let us consider this album for what it is: a live album that chronicles a band’s twenty-four year back-catalogue. A band that attracts fans from all generations, all backgrounds. A group that is widely regarded as one of the best live acts on the planet. A trio that has gone from a set of East Bay punk brats to a mainstream, stadium-filling rock act that, to date, has sold over sixty-five million records worldwide.
Billie Joe Armstrong in Manchester
Their latest studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, was a number one album in fourteen different countries and was a mix of awe-inspiring anthems and classic, raw Green Day (because Green Day is an adjective).
The main criticism of Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt is that they’ve “sold out”; they have ditched the local punk scene and decided, instead, to create songs with catchy lyrics, foot-tapping drum beats and ‘simple’ guitar riffs.
I don’t wholly go along with this assessment, but Awesome As Fuck combines the ‘old’ Green Day with the ‘new’ (i.e. American Idiot and beyond) Green Day superbly. Two songs from 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours; two from Kerplunk; one from Nimrod; one from Insomniac; three from Dookie and eleven from elsewhere. If you want a live album that chronicles their career, rather than one single concert, then this is the album for you.
The now-traditional spine-tingling Green Day entrance with 21st Century Breakdown is a great start to the CD, and Know Your Enemy (and I suggest you turn the volume up for this one) is, quite simply, phenomenal.
What is quite apparent on this album is that British music fans are louder than American music fans. There, I said it.
Of course, my tongue is firmly planted within my cheek, but, in all seriousness, there is significantly more singing along in Manchester – for KYE – and at Wembley – 21CB – than there is in Mountain View (California), for 21 Guns, a song that really needs crowd participation. That’s not a criticism, but I can honestly say that 21 Guns, and a few other tracks, was much better in Manchester than it sounds on the live album.
Tre Cool in Montreal
However, something that we didn’t get in England was Cigarettes and Valentines, the song that would have been on the follow-up album to Warning had the recordings not been stolen. American Idiot was born, and thank goodness for that, but the boys from California decided to add the song to their setlist, and then to the track listing. On the album, the song acts as a nice bridge between the aforementioned ‘new’ music and ‘old’ songs. Burnout, Going to Pasalacqua, J.A.R., Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?, Geek Stink Breath, When I Come Around and She: as Billie Joe said at the Lancaster County Cricket Ground in June 2010, “the old shit is always the best”.
So we’ve had the fast-paced, go-fucking-crazy opening, with songs that provide problems for the people in the flat below you. Then came the nostalgic section, going right back to 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours to prove that, deep down, they’re still the Berkeley punk band who once-upon-a-time sang about masturbation and dressing up as a woman for the day. And, to round it all off, you get the anthems. 21 Guns, American Idiot (with a stunning guitar solo), Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). If you haven’t lost your voice by this point, you’re not listening to it right.
If you buy the iTunes deluxe edition, you’re treated to a superb performance of Letterbomb and a quite unique recording of Kerplunk’s Christie Road, followed by Paper Lanterns and 2000 Light Years Away. That final track (and that’s track number twenty, in case you’d lost count) is an outstanding performance of two songs that continue to thrill Green Day fans, young and old.
Mike Dirnt in London
Awesome As Fuck isn’t a must-have live album, and nor is it a fair assessment of Green Day’s history – they’ve got so much more to give than this album suggests, so many more songs could have been put on the track list. What it is, though, is a lung-busting, all-action collection of a bunch of live performances.  
The album won’t give you an idea of what it’s like to be at a Green Day concert, but that’s not a criticism; in fact it’s completely irrelevant. Because when it comes to a Green Day concert experience, you really have to be there to believe it.
You can buy Awesome As Fuck through: Amazon  iTunes  Play.com  HMV  
 
1)            21st Century Breakdown (London, England)
2)            Know Your Enemy (Manchester, England)
3)            East Jesus Nowhere (Glasgow, Scotland)
4)            Holiday (Dublin, Republic of Ireland)
5)            ¡Viva la Gloria! (Dallas, United States)
6)            Cigarettes And Valentines (Phoenix, United States)
7)            Burnout (Irvine, United States)
8)            Going to Pasalacqua (Chula Vista, United States)
9)            J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva) (Detroit, United States)
10)         Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? (New York, United States)
11)         Geek Stink Breath (Saitama, Japan)
12)         When I Come Around (Berlin, Germany)
13)         She (Brisbane, Australia)
14)         21 Guns (Mountain View, United States)
15)         American Idiot (Montreal, Canada)
16)         Wake Me Up When September Ends (Nickelsdorf, Austria)
17)         Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (Nickelsdorf, Austria)
18)         Letterbomb (Chula Vista, United States) [iTunes bonus track]
19)         Christie Road (Hartford, United States) [iTunes bonus track]
20)         Paper Lanterns/2000 Light Years Away (Alpharetta, United States) [iTunes bonus track]

Green Day Turn Manchester Into Paradise

In an era that sees’s very few good live bands, the world needs great rock bands that can put on a show when performing. Enter Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool.

             Green Day’s European tour was nearly at an end with only a few stadium shows to go before they departed for America. The punk rock group, though, were not ready to wind down. After Englishman Frank Turner had opened proceedings with a selection of fine songs including The Real Damage and Long Live The Queen, rock goddess Joan Jett, who has been revitalised recently with an upcoming film documenting her band’s rise to fame, came on stage. She performed hits such as Do You Wanna Touch (Oh Yeah) and I Hate Myself For Loving You, as well as the classic I Love Rock ‘n Roll. All of which prepared the crowd for an intense night of singing, clapping, screaming and repeating the famous chant of ‘aye-oh’ at Armstrong’s request. 40,000 were in attendance at the stadium show, which came just three days before the Americans played the biggest show of their lives at Wembley Stadium, in front of 80,000 people. An incredible accomplishment for a band that started off as part of the punk scene at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley.

Billie Joe Armstrong
is a phenomenal
presence on stage

            Before the main attraction came on stage a pink rabbit entered the show, an item that has become accustomed in Green Day shows. The rabbit staggered around the stage holding a beer bottle and went on to lead in the performing of YMCA, with everyone in the crowd participating brilliantly. 40,000 people were now ready for what promised to be the time of their lives.

            As Song of the Century blared out of the speakers on the huge stage, the crowd began to go crazy. As 21st Century Breakdown began, the craziness went on to a whole new level. Frontman Armstrong leapt on to the stage and opened his arms wide to welcome the crowd, while drummer Cool and bassist Dirnt, as well as extra guitarist Jason White, took their positions as the band began to play the title track from their latest album.
            Before the crowd could even take a second to recollect their thoughts on how incredible that first song was, the first single to be released from Green Day’s 2009 album began. Cool’s trademark drumming opened Know Your Enemy as everyone in the ground seemed to jump up and down in perfect synchronisation.
            The brilliance of crowd interaction was then shown as Billie Joe got everyone in the Manchester ground to sing the guitar-riff introduction to East Jesus Nowhere. The band then burst into life and Billie cried out the first line, “Raise your hands now to testify”; an order that was happily followed.
            A fantastic component of Green Day shows is the relationship with the crowd. Not only do they make every single person in the audience feel valued and cherished but they also give some very lucky people moments that they will never forget. In East Jesus Nowhere Billie asks for a sacrifice, a “young child” is brought up on stage from the front of the crowd. On this particular occasion, the sacrifice was a girl named Alison from Chicago. The act is a little hard to explain with it sounding like a form of child-abuse; the video on the right will explain everything.
            The gig mainly consisted of songs from American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, as you would expect, but the band, who have been around since 1991, did play some classic Green Day songs. Burnout, Coming Clean and When I Come Around were all played, while a cover of Hitchin’ by Metallica was thrown in there for good measure. Crowd favourite Welcome To Paradise showed off Billie Joe’s guitar skills and a medley of classic rock songs (including Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine and AC/DC’s Highway To Hell) was also played to really get the lungs of the audience going.


Billie turns drummer
            Another great moment was the singing of Longview which, as a tradition almost, is sung by a member of the crowd, sometimes even two. As you can see from the video on the left, on this occasion there were two singers. After the first single from huge album Dookie had been played the band then went on to play King For A Day and a cover of The Isley Brother’s classic, Shout. What makes this even better is the fact that Billie, the lead singer, and Tre, the drummer, switched places for this song. They then went back to their usual positions and played the brilliant 21 Guns and Minority, before they went off stage. Those who hadn’t been to a Green Day concert before probably thought that the gig was over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

            Billie, Mike and Tre came running back on to the stage and played American Idiot and Jesus Of Suburbia in an encore that lasted nearly fifteen minutes. Again they went off stage but, again, that wasn’t the end. Billie once more appeared on stage and began to play Wake Me Up When September Ends, and the frontman was joined by his bandmates in the latter part of the song as all instruments became involved. Tre and Mike then departed, leaving Billie to play new single When It’s Time and Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). Billie Joe Armstrong on his own, on stage with just an acoustic guitar to accompany him, with 40,000 people screaming the lyrics as loud as they could, creating an atmosphere that cannot possible be described in words. That is what you get when you see Green Day live.          

Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool
            The history of the band plays a big part in their live shows. The band have come along way since 1991. After the band’s independent record label, Lookout! Records, gained them a grass-roots fan base, their first major record label album, in the form of Dookie, was a breakout success and eventually sold 15 million copies worldwide. The band have now sold 70 million records worldwide and have collected many awards, including Best Rock Album for American Idiot and Record Of The Year for anthem Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.
40,000 eyes on one man
            After Green Day’s groundbreaking American Idiot album in 2004, followed by a hugely successful tour around the world, the Californian band are widely recognised as one of the best live bands in the world right now. The band are now on the North American leg of their 2010 21st Century Breakdown World Tour, and there is now talk of a new album. It doesn’t get any better than seeing Green Day live, though. The anthem-like sounds of American Idiot, Know Your Enemy and Minority are accompanied by the heart-wrenchingly amazing ballads of Wake Me When September Ends, 21 Guns and the classic Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) which all make for a great show. Add into that the classic punk that Green Day were brought up on of Burnout, Basket Case and Longview, and you’ve basically got the best show ever created.
 
Thanks to TheSoundsInside, djfinster83 and MrsLepetit for supplying the videos on YouTube.


This is a review of a gig that occurred on June 16th, 2010 at Manchester Cricket Ground.
All pictures by Jake Harrison.