Seeing the legendary Green Day for the first time is special. Their 1994 album Dookie is responsible for fostering my obsession with music to this day. Their turn to a politically charged group of punks gave new life to a career that seemed to be fading by the early 2000s. They took a stand for what they believed in with American Idiot, and it paid off – for them as artists and us as fans. Green Day has amassed an incredible career, and seeing them live was a bucket list concert for me. Their show at Joe Louis Arena Monday night was exactly what I expected…and that disappoints me.
It’s impossible to say that Green Day don’t put on a great show. The sound was amazing; Billie Joe’s voice is as powerful as ever and Mike and Tre didn’t miss a beat. The energy in the building was red lining for the entire night. The stage production was impressive without being gaudy – great light show but didn’t burn your retinas. The audience interaction was incredible, and that’s where my problem starts.
Let’s be clear: Green Day is an amazing band and worth every penny you spend to see them.
However, as someone that’s been a fan for over 20 years, and yet to see them live before, I was disappointed their show didn’t have any surprises. The audience participation felt synthetic. Billie Joe Armstrong spent most of the musical interludes doing a mix of Harry Belafonte and James Brown impressions. “Heeeey Ohhhh,” audience repeats, “HeeAAAAAYYYY HEEEEEAY” audience repeats.
It continued in that fashion for the entire night. Sure it’s fun, it creates an enjoyable atmosphere, but it felt slightly awkward as the crowd fell nearly silent when Armstrong wasn’t instructing us on what to do. Rather than a completely organic experience, he was manufacturing the energy by creating chants that he insisted we repeated. Even when he picked a random kid out of the audience to play guitar during one of the tracks, it felt a little too smooth to be as random as we were meant to believe. It didn’t ruin the show, just made it feel fake.
I was reminded of seeing Bruce Springsteen play live and how it just feels more genuine with his show. Both Bruce and Green Day play to arenas on a nightly basis, they pull kids on stage from the audience to participate in the songs, and it’s clear Billie Joe Armstrong is influenced by The Boss. But, Springsteen shows are full of unprompted sing-a-longs, chants and dancing.
I was expecting a lot from my first Green Day concert, and I wanted them to give me more than I could image. Instead, I got EXACTLY what I thought a Green Day show would be. Maybe my expectations were too high. It was still better than 90% of other bands, but they’re not supposed to be like other bands. They’re supposed to exceed your expectations.