Live: Green Day Get A Little Less Serious At The Studio At Webster Hall

by Joshua Kurp

greenday_websterhall.jpg
Nadia Chaudhury
Green Day
The Studio at Webster Hall
Thursday, October 27

Better Than: Hearing blink-182 play "Hybrid Moments" three times.

"We're gonna do an older song," Billie Joe Armstrong, dressed as Jack Skellington, told the packed-tight audience at the Studio at Webster Hall around 10 songs into Green Day's two-hour set on Thursday night. The show had begun promisingly enough with a cover of "Monster Mash," sung vaguely to the tune of "Basket Case," followed by almost all-new material.

Then, 40 minutes in, the so-called "older song." It turned out to be "Stop, Drop, and Roll," the title track from the 2008 album by Green Day spinoff Foxboro Hot Tubs. For those up front—the younger, moshing fans—this was received rapturously; for those in the middle and back, the ones who may have seen Green Day during the Dookie tour, hearing a song from three years ago referred to as "older" was met with an awkward, false-anticipatory shuffle. Last night's surprise pre-Halloween show was an opportunity for Green Day to test out new material in front of a devoted audience, with security so tight that photos were forbidden; even the set lists were supposedly ripped up the second the concert ended.

(It was also a chance to play covers of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and the Misfits' "Hybrid Moments" (performed three times, presumably because the show was being recorded and they needed a perfect take—good thing it's a perfect song); the band wove a line or two from Pulp's "Common People" into one of the new songs, too.)

For a while, and like the songs themselves, this was fine. The new material sounded like outtakes from Warning, an album that will get the critical reevaluation it deserves some day; there was even a song that might as well have been called "Minority, Pt. 2." (It had shittier lyrics.) In a small, live setting, removed from the overblown production values of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day are a solid, mature cowpunk band, making the whole "are they pop, or are they punk?" debate that once surrounded them laughable in retrospect. Armstrong sang without a snarl, reminiscent of the change his hero, Paul Westerberg, went through between Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and All Shook Down, while steady drummer Tre Cool, in a pink fairy costume, was kept low in the mix. Mike Dirnt, on the other hand, remained the backbone of the group, his basslines technically proficient, yet seemingly ramshackle at the same time.

But man, those lyrics. Once Billie Joe started writing supposedly meaningful songs, his words stopped meaning anything. The band played new material for roughly 60-75 minutes, and only one line from that chunk of the show caught my notice: "It's a make out party to another dimension," from "Make Out Party." (Maybe Green Day and Weezer, the band that gave us "Can't Stop Partying," are in some secret contest on which 40-year-old can write the more embarrassing and creepy song?) Another new cut was introduced as being about sex. I guess it's nice that they're not writing about the downfall of America anymore, but whatever words Billie sang during the first set, they were received like white-noise, and made me wish the band could write something as brilliant in its simplicity as "I was a young boy that had big plans/ But now I'm just another shitty old man" again. But Green Day doesn't do simple anymore.

Fine, I'm That Guy. I'm That Guy about Green Day. I last saw the band in 2005 during the American Idiot tour, when I was 18, and had no intention of ever seeing them again. Dookie was one of my first favorite albums, and things only got better with Insomniac, Nimrod (pretty sure I cried when Seinfeld used "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" during its clip show), Shenanigans, and yes, Warning. (And the Angus soundtrack, for "J.A.R.") Then the drop, when I would hear "American Idiot" played on the radio, feel old, and think to myself, "They totally sold out, man."

That is , of course, not accurate, and it was only my stupid teenage misconceptions of what a punk band "should" be that made me believe it in the first place. (They never really were a punk band, actually; I just wanted them to be one, so I could say I liked a punk band.) Years later, I've come to appreciate American Idiot on its own, particularly "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Holiday," which would be one of the best rock radio singles of the past decade, if not for the unforgivable "representative from California" break.

That being said, I really wanted to hear "Paper Lanterns," and I sort of got my wish. After a brief encore, the band launched into "Murder City," one of the few enjoyable songs from Breakdown, followed by a riotous rendition of "Letterbomb." Then the good stuff: "Hitchin' a Ride," "Geek Stink Breath," "She," "Welcome to Paradise," "2,000 Light Years Away" (which was stretched out to include some "hey-oh's"), and finally, "Going to Pasalacqua." The band was going in reverse chronological order, from the overblown "Where will all the martyrs go when the virus cures itself?" to the understated "Would I last forever?/ You and I together, hand and hand." Billie Joe is in his 40s, and expecting him to still be a hopeless romantic is probably a tall order; he sounded distant and removed from the lyrics he'd penned years ago. But the enthusiasm from the crowd, which had decreased by the end of the first set and came back at this point, more than made up for it. Hearing that teenage-retrospective set at the end of show confirmed that maybe we weren't totally wasting our time staring at the Dookie cover and studying "Stuart and the Ave." during our so-called formative years. Some 14 nostalgia-heavy years later, it's still a blast to shout the countdown during "Hitchin' a Ride," and that's actually kind of nice.

Critical bias: "At the Library" is my favorite Green Day song, so I guess it's technically all been downhill since then.

Overheard: "FUCK YOU BILLIE." (No particular reason.)

Random notebook dump: The other guitarist looks like if Neil Young was in that Alice the Wonderland video instead of Tom Petty.

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17 comments
Stevo
Stevo

"One of the first things you learn in an Intro to journalism course in college is that you’re supposed to distance yourself from the story. Objectivity is the goal, and if you’re, say, a journalist who’s actively occupying Wall Street, you’re probably not going to write an interesting, or fair, article looking at both sides of the issue....." -Joshua Kurp

guest
guest

Urp on Joshua Kurp.

Staring Across The Room
Staring Across The Room

What the fuck is this guy ( who wrote the review ) on ?

He said he saw the band in 2005 and had no intension of seeing them again - ok ? So what were you doing watching green day in websters hall then ?

He also says that billie seem distant from his lyrics my fucking arse he does - he is the greatest song writer of his generation and also writes what is in his heart and soul :)

Oh yea green day are punk :) punk rock or pop punk who cares they have been around for 24 years and still make great music no matter what :)

What a douchebag you are :L

Why do you evn listen to the greatest punk band of all time if all you do is put them down ?

In other notes : really good to hear green day come back from a year long break and do new stuff - can't wait for the new album :) even thou it doesn't exist yet ?

Judge Smails.
Judge Smails.

This is hilarious. You were 7 years-old when Dookie turned Green Day into a multi-platinum megastars but you thought they were sellouts when you heard American Idiot on the radio. You should punch yourself in the weiner.  

Gerg Standal
Gerg Standal

Jason White, the "other guitarist" has been touring with them for at least 10 years. If you don't know that, you don't know much about Green Day so you really don't know what you're talking about.

sam
sam

You should read some of the other reviews of this concert so you could learn how to wirite a proper review.  And next time don't bother going to a concert of a band you don't like.  Save that ticket for someone who WANTS to be there!

Ellie B
Ellie B

The early music of Green Day is great, and Warning is definitely underrated. However, American Idiot is one of the most brilliant albums I have ever heard, and 20th Breakdown is another very underrated album like Warning.   

Complexity should not be considered a negative(words like bombastic are more over the top than the music to which you attribute it).   How foolish would you think me if I had limited myself to only enjoying the music of my youth(Beatles, The Who, Kinks, Hendrix), and how unfortunate to have then missed later acts like REM, The Talking Heads, Nirvana, Radiohead, and Arcade Fire(and numerous others I have left out)?  

Green Day are on a par with all of the greats I have mentioned.  That is why their fans include people from children to to seniors. It seems your prior opinions and posturing got in the way of really reviewing the concert last night. That's really a shame.  

PS. What is with having to post thru an online organization?  Are we sheep?  

  

Scott6789
Scott6789

Very amateurish review, very critical of things that didn't need any comment at all.  Such as "Once Billie Joe started writing supposedly meaningful songs, his words stopped meaning anything" What has that got to do with the review of the show, and that is a highly debatable argument anyway.  No real review or opinion  on newer work aside from some stupid reference to Weezer.  That is a huge let down.And finally who the hell writes something without checking the information is correct, saying Billie Joe is in his 40's is just downright sloppy sloppy writing.  A 15 year old could right a better review; honestly dude go back to school and find something because your attempt at journalism sucks worse than anything Green Day have ever released.And PS; When you write these things be aware that Green Day are for their type of music extremely successful and popular in today's music scene.  Maybe in future if you don't have any respect for who you're seeing perform don't bother writing a review for them because most of this one was just droning on about nonsense, irrelevent things to the show.

Jim
Jim

You're a dick, you were 5 when GD started and don't even know how old Billie Joe is. Just because you are 25, you think you have a monopoly on feeling youthful? You say that he is creepy just because he is writing about topics that you don't see fit for someone near 40?! Fuck you prick.

Fntype2
Fntype2

Billie is 39, not "in his 40's". Those up front included some in their '40's, and at least one in her 50's.  Not exactly youngsters.  VV should have sent someone who would have appreciated what they were seeing - something rare and wonderful and NYC at it's best.

jenne f travers
jenne f travers

it's rare i hear from another fan of Nimrod and Warning. YAY.

John1981
John1981

Fuck off you ungrateful little prick!

You are nothing more than a vapid, untalented hipster doofus.

John1981
John1981

If that's not enough, you're one ugly mother fucker, too!Have fun petting that hamster, jackass!

tommy
tommy

so young, yet so jaded!

renee
renee

I agree with Jax. Bands aren't suppose to do new music, just the specific older ones you particularly like? "That Guy" is a douche. This wasn't even close to a "review." It was whining. 

Jax
Jax

You sound like a douche, trying not to sound like a douche.

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