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Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY
May 18, 2009
  • Secret show
  • Village Voice: "I love a good 'The First Time We Played New York City' story, and Green Day's, predictably, is hilarious. 'We've been a band for 21 years - fuckin' thank you very much,' declares Billie Joe Armstrong, sincerely. 'The first time we played here, we opened for Bad Religion at Roseland Ballroom.' Roughly two decades later they are ungodly huge, the rapturously praised 21st Century Breakdown the toast of newspapers and Twitters everywhere, revving up for a summer playing the Madison Square Gardens of the world with a buncha 'secret' slumming club gigs, wherein they regale us with molotov-cocktail pop-punk tunes called Christian's Inferno, Know Your Enemy, Jesus of Suburbia, and East Jesus Nowhere. Jesus, this is weird. For a one-song microcosm of everything riotously awful and improbably thrilling about Breakdown, may I suggest Last of the American Girls, which is like Tom Petty's American Girl playing out of 900 car stereos simultaneously, Flaming Lips-style, with lyrics so dumb they're positively transcendent: 'She puts her makeup on like graffiti on the walls of the heartland,' etc. Suburbia and 'the heartland' as explained by arena-rock stars who only lay eyes on such places from the tinted windows of speeding tour buses. And yet, and yet, when that goofy synth riff kicks in on the chorus, I am on board that bus, this bandwagon. A dozen songs in the main set tonight, all from Breakdown, with three auxilary dudes (two on guitar, one on keys) for supplementary pathos, mercifully light on the piano ballads. Multiple stage-divers bum-rush the stage to hug/kiss/butt heads with Billie before security sasses 'em and they dive blissfully back into the muck. I'm glad these dudes 'grew up,' got a wee bit political, aimed a bit harder, opted to write songs about things that are not masturbation. But after awhile I just want want to hear the songs about masturbation, and during a meandering, increasingly sloppy encore (your show's over when the drummer picks up a guitar, I don't care who you are), Green Day deigns to play a few: Longview is nearly old enough to drive, perhaps the suburban-punk anthem, back before anyone realized the suburbs were what you were supposed to be railing against. The show ends, Tre Cool throws, like, 50 drumsticks into the crowd, and then the boys head off to play a few more 'secret' shows (a MySpace gig at Webster Hall tonight, and if you're just hearing about it now, forget it), and then Good Morning America, and then every arena in the continental United States. They are the gods the band they once opened for made their bones railing against, the gods they now deride themselves. 'Fuckin'-A, man, this is my religion,' Billie Joe thunders. 'Fuckin' rock 'n' fuckin' roll, man.'"
  • The New York Times: "Nearly all the negativity voiced by Green Day on Monday night at the Bowery Ballroom - the ritual punk evocations of boredom, hysteria, hypocrisy, suffocation - came through like party music. Through two hours of rapid-fire songs, the small, rabbitlike, eyelinered Billie Joe Armstrong, the band’s singer and guitarist, kept spreading his arms into their narrow wingspan, and his body language always meant two things: both 'What is this world coming to?' and 'All together now.' The first half of the concert, one of a few small, semi-secret shows preceding a longer stadium tour in the summer, came entirely from the new Green Day record, 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise), released last week. As words alone, the new songs don’t kid around: they pour sour sauce on sweet American myths, showing up ideals of freedom, plenty and piety with defensive anger. The images are as confused as ever - Mr. Armstrong runs through plenty of dull grandiosity to make his points - but the lyrics are more elegiac and hardened than on American Idiot, the band’s extremely popular last record, and the benchmark it now must live up to. Borrowing from all over the place, the band evoked several generations of FM-radio rock, from the Beatles to glam to punk, with tireless speed and clean rhythm. (As on the American Idiot tour, the current stage version of Green Day turns the band from a trio into a sextet, but some of the touches that make the new record sound as ambitious as it does - strings, tack piano, calibrated transitions from lush ballads to punk - weren’t part of this show.) Grounding the lyrics in the perspectives of a boy and a girl, the new songs portray America as a psychic war zone. There was the subject of Last of the American Girls, who 'puts her makeup on like graffiti on the walls of the heartland'; the average Joe hardened into a heretic in Before the Lobotomy, claiming 'we’re lost like refugees'; the title track’s member of the 'Class of '13,' who defines himself as 'born on the Fourth of July/raised in an era of heroes and cons.' High up in the set was Know Your Enemy, a seriously good three-minute singalong by a band that might have lost its power when it ran out of easy cynicism. It’s the record’s strongest shot of adrenaline - no major-to-minor shifts here - but its hope is in its anger. 'Violence is an energy/against the enemy,' it preaches in its stop-time chorus. 'Rally up the demons of your soul.' The encore was really the show’s full second half, and in it Green Day ran through older songs (Longview, Dearly Beloved, She), devolving into its usual medley of King For A Day, the Isley Brothers’ Shout and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, wherein it became a frat-party band. All members except the drummer, Tré Cool, lay on the floor for a long middle section, getting up again to hammer out the final crescendo. This was already canned shtick by the time Green Day got to it, but Mr. Armstrong’s manic energy makes it work. Supine, he wasted time on purpose, singing Swanee and Baby Face; back on his feet, he was all authority, conducting the crowd in a group sing of one long, beautiful tone."
Photos from New York, NY
Send your own photos for this show to photos@greendayauthority.com
1. Song Of The Century
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. East Jesus Nowhere
5. Before The Lobotomy
6. Last Of The American Girls
7. Murder City
8. ¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)
9. The Static Age
10. 21 Guns
11. American Eulogy
12. See The Light
13. American Idiot
14. Jesus Of Suburbia
15. Longview
16. Dominated Love Slave
17. Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?
18. Brain Stew
19. Going To Pasalacqua
20. She
21. King For A Day
22. Shout (Isley Brothers cover) / Stand By Me (Ben King cover)
23. Minority
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