|“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.
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.
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.
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]