When Green Day announced the Reading/Leeds Festival “warm-up” show that they would play at Brixton Academy a little over a week before the event, the relatively unique build up to these ‘last minute’ theatre/club style shows kicked off in earnest. The short notice announcement sent fans into a combination of excitement, panic and delirium as we scrambled for tickets, while turning any plans upside down to make sure of our attendance.

Billie Joe at the Brixton Arena. Photo by Kalpesh Patel
Green Day shows in the UK, and particularly London, tend to grab the attention of the Green Day world on a grand scale. Having played some of their biggest shows here over the last decade (Milton Keynes/Wembley Stadium/The Emirates), the band’s appearances here take on the mantle of a major event. The fact that this particular show coincided with the Birthday of the London born legend Joe Strummer, meant the show took on an extra significance.

Arriving at the venue about an hour before doors opened, I was pretty amazed to find that the queue outside the venue wrapped the entire way around the block where Brixton Academy is situated. Thousands of fans eager to get in and secure the best spots possible, a fair few even camping out over night, a brave effort in one of London’s more precarious areas!

I made my way into the venue around half way through Frank Turner’s (support act) set, with the venue already packed to the rafters and the air of anticipation already palpable. The downward sloping floor in the venue means that almost every position provides an excellent vantage point. In Green Day’s tradition to pay homage to influential bands of yesteryear, the intro music of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and then The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop provided the perfect tonic to get the crowd pumped up for Green Day’s imminent entrance to the stage.

With the band having played mainly festival size shows over the last year, it was a delight to see the band back in a smaller, more intimate, theatre-style setting. Despite Green Day’s ability to rock stadiums, it’s something else seeing them in a smaller indoor setting.

  • View photos from this show

    With their customary high octane delivery, Green Day launched into the tour opening song ‘99 revolutions’, followed by a selection of songs from the tour set list including ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, ‘Let Yourself Go’ and ‘Stop When The Red Lights Flash’. During the intro to Letterbomb, Billie Joe vented about some of frustrations of the world today, culminating in an emphasis on the importance of enjoying the moment that we were all in right then, something that i think sums up the ethos of the Green Day Live show. It was at this moment as well that Billie fittingly screamed out “Happy Birthday Joe Strummerrrrrr!!!”

    Photo by Steve Higgs
    The highlight in terms of the show was about to come. In the week leading up to the show, Green Day dropped some strong hints on Instagram that they would be performing the entire Dookie album while they were over here. Around the middle of the set, Billie Joe strode out with his “Blue” guitar and announced that with the 20 year anniversary of the album coming up in 2014, they’d be playing the entire album, front to back. Cue raucous cheers from the 5,000 strong crowd. My personal highlight was the semi-acoustic performance of Pulling Teeth, which offered a welcome respite to the fast pace opening to that album, and also saw a moments calm appreciation as Billie Joe grinned while donning a red cowboy hat that was thrown to him from the crowd. There is an excellent video of the entire Dookie performance up on YouTube.

    There was still time for an assortment of classics, including ‘St. Jimmy’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Minority’. During the encore, I watched the last few songs, including ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’, towards the back of the venue, enjoying a broader view of the occasion. It was notable how involved the entire crowd were, right to the very end - a testament to Green Day’s ability to maintain attention throughout a 2-hour-plus set. As someone who has seen them more than their fair share of times, I’m still attracted by their seeming endeavour to make every show better than their last, and this felt like another challenge to their career topping performances.

    As the band took their bow after the chillingly beautiful ‘Brutal Love’, many of the crowd, including myself, began to turn to make their way out, only to be quickly reprised by the return of Billie Joe to play out the indomitable finale, ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’. With no future tour dates currently announced after Reading/Leeds, here’s hoping there’s still more to come for the rest of the world to enjoy.

    Watch Green Day perform Dookie at this show

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