The morning of January 2 this year, I got up in Ichenheim on the day I was returning to Hannover and went upstairs for breakfast. While eating, a Green Day song played on the radio and while it wasn’t the first time I heard it, at that moment it struck me deeply. “I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known. Don’t know where it goes, but it’s only me and I walk alone.” For years I liked Green Day but never got into them, but after hearing that song that morning I decided to finally get their recent albums—it would be the first ‘new music’ of 2010 for me.
I downloaded American Idiot and their latest album 21st Century Breakdown as soon as I got home, but it was actually a couple of months before I felt like listening to them. But as soon as I did, as soon as I was half-way through “Jesus of Suburbia” I knew I should have been listening a long time ago. American Idiot is just an all-around fantastic album, both musically and in terms of deeper meaning. I liked it so much that I listened to it whenever I wanted to hear Green Day, and barely ever listened to 21st Century Breakdown after the first time.
Then about two months ago the front-man for Green Day, Billy Joe Armstrong, went on Bill Maher’s show for an interview that provided me with more insight into the music and made me appreciate it even more. Maher told him that he thinks every album they’ve done is better than the last, so I decided to give 21st Century another chance. I found it was also incredibly good, though I still prefer American Idiot.
By that point I’d already seen a few posters around town advertising the Green Day concert in Hannover on 30 May for their 21st Century Breakdown tour. I’d thought about going but figured it would mostly be songs from the new album and at that point I hadn’t been listening to it much. If I was going to buy tickets to the concert I’d want to hear my favorite song, “Jesus of Suburbia”, and I figured they wouldn’t play anything from previous albums that hadn’t been a hit on the radio, and at nine and a half minutess that song was definitely way too long for the radio. But after realizing how good 21st Century was I figured it would be worth it to go just to hear those songs live, and I bought myself a ticket.
The show was last night. Over the weekend I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be up for it, as I got slightly sick—not enough to be truly debilitating but enough to be annoying and make me very tired. Rather than jogging I went for walks instead on Friday and Saturday, although on the day of the concert I did go jogging again just to listen to 21st Century once more before the concert (Green Day is great jogging music).
The show was to start at 8:00, and I left my flat at 6:30 on the long journey down to the Expo-plaza, arriving there at 7:20. It’s technically in Hannover but it’s really far from the inner city. Incidentally, it’s the same place where Cebit was held and the same tram stop as the Ikea, so I’d already been there several times before.
It was pouring rain when I got there and in spite of my umbrella (which was knocked about relentlessly by the wind) I got fairly soaked by the time I got to the concert hall. At that point, my objective was just to drink enough beer to get a good buzz going for the show. The beer was ridiculously overpriced but I’d expected it and sucked it up. I found my seat—having bought the cheapest possible tickets I was in the top overhang, as far to the left as possible to the point where had I stayed there I would have actually been looking at the performers’ backs. Luckily, the show wasn’t sold out so there were plenty of available seats in the overhang so I sat in the back row nearly center-stage, having the entire row all to myself.
There was an opening act called the Donots, and while they weren’t good they were at least much better than some other opening acts I’ve had to sit through. They played from 8:00 to 8:30, and then there was a 30-minute pause until Green Day came on at 9:00 sharp. I can’t remember ever being to a concert that started exactly on time, and I figured Green Day wouldn’t be the type of band to be punctual to the stage, but maybe they felt that while in Germany they would do as the Germans do.
The show got off to a great start with exactly what I expected—the first handful of songs from 21st Century Breakdown. They played the title track, then “Know Your Enemy” and then skipped forward to “East Jesus Nowhere” which kicks ass and I had really hoped they would play, and then skipped all the way to “The Static Age” which was near the end of the album. I was surprised at how little time they spent on the new stuff.
Before I knew it they busted out the American Idiot stuff, playing “Holiday” which I love and which got the crowd going wild, and then “Novocaine” which is good but nothing too special. At that point I really had to piss and my beer was empty so I quickly ducked out and tried to take care of those things without missing too much. I would have got back nice and quickly if there hadn’t been a problem with the beer—the keg was empty and they had to swap it for a new one which took an excruciating five minutes, during which the band played “Are We the Waiting” which is one of the best songs on the album and which I hadn’t expected to hear. I got to hear it, but it was very muffled and I was extremely pissed to have missed it. Although at least there was an ironic appropriateness to missing that song while waiting for beer.
I got back in just in time for the end of “St. Jimmy”, which they followed with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, the song that had been playing that morning at the beginning of the year which sparked my whole interest in Green Day in the first place. I’m really glad they played it, as it kind of brought things full circle.
But for the rest of the show they busted out the old school shit with which I’m less familiar. I really wished I’d gone for the beer during that portion of the show, but it was too late. The remaining thirty minutes or so were filled with songs I either didn’t know or didn’t care about, although I was definitely happy to hear things like “When I Come Around” or “Basketcase” which I’ve known since middle school and the latter of which was one of my favorite songs for awhile.
Unfortunately I was still a bit pissed at having left at the wrong time and as much as I admired them for spending so much time on their old-school shit to please the hardcore fans, I’d really wanted to hear more from 21st Century Breakdown. I’d been listening to it frequently over the past months just for the sake of getting familiar with it so I could enjoy this particular show more. But they hardly spent any time on it at all, and before I knew it they were building up to the big finish.
Billy Joe is definitely quite a performer. He was obviously enjoying the hell out of himself and he did lots of fun things like bringing kids up to the stage to sing along or firing water from squirt-guns or T-shirts from a cannon into the crowd. He spoke English even to the German crowd, though I’m sure most of them understood him as the crowd was pretty young. I’m not sure how honest he was being, but he said on more than one occasion how great the German crowd was and how it was “way better than America” which of course received thunderous applause. He might have just been pandering to the crowd as rock stars do, but he might also have had a point. The crowd really was fantastic, with more singing and clapping along and waving of the arms in the air than I’ve ever seen at a concert. It’s quite possible that Germans do get more into their rock concerts than Americans do.
Anyway, he said “Danke schön” a few times and they walked off the stage, with the crowd immediately chanting for more. I’ve never seen an encore happen so fast—they were back on the stage within a minute, busting out “American Idiot” (the title track). I was glad to hear another song I was familiar with, but figured it was likely that would be the last.
And then Billy Joe said, “Okay, this is the last song. And it’s called Jesus…of…Suburbia!” I nearly lost my shit with excitement. My favorite Green Day track—the one song I most wanted to hear but figured I’d have no chance of hearing—was going to be the last song. So for the next ten minutes of the epic rock ballad I stood up and danced and sang along liked a damned fool, making sure to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment I could out of this totally unexpected awesomeness.
But it turned out that wasn’t even the last song. Billy Joe concluded with a medley of some of his softer and more melodic tunes, beginning with “Last Night on Earth” from the new album and then “Wake Me Up When September Ends” which is fucking fantastic and unbelievably moving to see performed live, and finally “Time of Your Life” which is also hauntingly beautiful and one of my all-time favorites. When the show finally ended I felt I’d gotten more than my money’s worth.
Then I had to get home. I followed the crowd leaving the arena, not realizing that they were all walking towards a parking lot and not the tram. I had no idea where the tram was and it was dark and the Expo-plaza is a bit of a labyrinth. I kept asking people but nobody knew, until luckily one nice group of Germans who were also heading back to the inner city offered to give me a lift. I got home at midnight and I knew I had to work the next morning but I was still riding high from the show so I stayed up another hour, drinking one last beer and listening to Green Day for the first time since having seen them live. I’ll never listen to them the same way again.
All in all, it was a great experience. Not the best show of my life, of course, but probably in the Top 5. If I had made a list of the top 10 songs I’d wanted to hear them play, they played at least 7, and while I stupidly missed one of them it was more than made up for by getting to hear them play the song I wanted to hear most. If this is the only concert I go to this year, it was a damned good one. For me, Green Day will always be the music of the first half of 2010.