Finally, Rachel and I get back to doing what we do best together - going to gigs! This, our first joint one since Kasey was born nevertheless nearly didn't happen as I got a hit of the recent family stomach virus about 3 pm, and needed to lie down for an hour or so before we set off!
But go we did - this was the one Rach had been saving herself for, so I wasn't going to wuss out, so we set off at 5.45, hitting horrible traffic and needing an emergency stop, but still parking up at 7.45. Indeed, the final NEC approach was remarkably painless - it seemed everyone heeded the ticket providers' useful e-mail advice that Green Day were due on at 8, and got there early!
Park'n'rode to the venue - now the LG Arena - from our outlying car park and took our standing spot, about halfway back, in good time for the arrival of... that damned drunken bunny again! Staggering on and chugging beer down to the general delight of the crowd, the pink bunny made a rabble rousing reappearance from the "American Idiot" tour, this time dancing to "YMCA" and the Ramones' "Rock'n'Roll Radio" before the lights plunged at 8.15, heralding the quiet intro "Song Of The Century", which announced the arrival of Green Day to a noisy reception, and into the tempo-change-tastic "21st Century Breakdown" title track.
The thick end of 5 years has passed since the step-change of "American Idiot" marked Green Day out as a band that matter once more, their cartoon ramalama punk being infused with a political commentary as biting and articulate as anyone, and a widescreen song structure sensibility far removed from the amphetamine soundbites of "Dookie" yet still retaining the Green Day identity. And the question, "how do you follow that," has been answered with, "more of the same, really!" Evolution rather than revolution has been the theme of the new CD, which initially rendered it disappointing to my ears, but which, "live", made much more sense. A raucous, singalong "Know Your Enemy" followed, by which time Billie Joe was well into the full-on stadium mass communication antics, screaming, "Birming-HAMMMMM!" at every opportunity and exhorting the frantic young crowd into "hey-oh"s with annoying frequency. Stadium Rock 101 really, but actually, when it's this much fun, I can forgive that...
The antics continued; a couple of kids being hauled onstage for "human sacrifice", fireworks and pyrotechnics galore, water cannons, random yahoos being dragged up because Billie Joe liked their blue hair, some punter being dragged up to sing all of "Longview" and another crowd-surfing from the back of the 16,000 capacity auditorium, you get the picture...
But all this augmented rather than detracted from the rock, with superb renditions of "The Static Age" and "St. Jimmy" early spiky highlights, and "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" as desolate and gut-wrenching as ever, throwing light and shade (and a lengthy pregnant pause - hooray!) into the set. And so easily did the new numbers rub shoulders with the "American Idiot" material, that it wasn't until the karaoke "Longview", 50 minutes in, that they delved beyond their last 2 CDs. And testament to the strength of that material that we really didn't notice!
Similar to the new CD, the stage show was an evolution of the "American Idiot" tour we enjoyed 3 times in 04/05. Some recycled antics and backdrops, but I liked the "Unknown Pleasures" style lines effect on some band close-ups, making Mike Dirnt in particular look like a row of manic duelling cardiographs!
2 hours in, an amphetamine crazy "American Idiot" encore capped an entertaining set, so we left as Billie Joe took the stage for the final acoustic encores, missing them but ensuring a quick exit and home by midnight. Punk rock healed me, as I felt much better after the gig!