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The Punk Band Who Beat The Mainstream: Green Day Live In Manchester
John Robb , June 17th, 2010 10:25

Nobody appreciates righteousness like John Robb. After seeing Green Day live at Manchester's Old Trafford stadium, he explains why they're still so thrilling - and the ultimate small town band

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In a blur of powerful anthemic songs, a stunning LED backdrop, hardcore rushes, massive ballads, serious commentary and daft stunts, Green Day arrive at the sold out 30,000 plus capacity Old Trafford cricket ground on a balmy Mancunian evening. It's a show of strength that seems to be beyond the mainstream media sense of belief.

Their stunning show, almost two hours long, is 21st century rock & roll perfection. Somehow they have managed to scratch the fabric of their constituent sound and make it work in a variety of styles that would be way beyond most bands. Forging on from their roots in the San Francisco punk rock scene, they have the adventure of The Clash and The Beatles - two constituent influences - but have very much moved in their own no-barriers direction without the associated genre fear that hampers so many bands.

Their song writing talent and ability to communicate with a huge section of the public has made them one of the biggest bands in the world today, and they are using the space they have been given very well.

There are moments in this spellbinding show that are simply beyond belief.

Green Day have taken the emotional highs and lows of a rock & roll concert and turned them into something else. Somehow they manage to combine slapstick humour, goofy pranks, fierce pop punk, heartbreaking ballads, blinding introspection and stadium bombast - sometimes all in just one song. They are at ease with massive anthems like 'American Idiot' that stuck it to the right wing pro-war media jocks and was still a huge hit; they can deal out a massive ballad, hardcore thrash or, on the Marilyn Manson tinged 'East Jesus Nowhere', a rumbling stadium glam workout. That they can also thread these into some some sort of narrative is their true genius. Their current album, which forms the backbone of their set, is a triumph in modern American storytelling.

The band can play tough. The rhythm section is superb, and Billie Joe Armstrong is one of the best songwriters operating in modern rock & roll. Despite his mass success, he still has the knack to communicate with the small town neurosis and paranoia that is at the heart of his huge constituency. Armstrong is a twitching presence with a low boredom threshold, disgusted at the world. His songs are stuffed full of punk rock polemic but they also switch from style to style with a hyperactive ease. A Green Day song may start off punk rock but could switch anywhere within thirty seconds - it shouldn't work, but it does.

All this is underlined with an incredible light show on LED screens that is easily the best I have ever seen. Stark, dark and comic book brilliant, it subtly underlines the proto power of the songs and helps to fill the stadium with a sound and vision that takes you on a trip into the dark heart of America.

Somehow Green Day manage to entertain and blow your mind...

They are more than ably supported by Joan Jett, who has been given some spotlight with the upcoming Runaways film. She still looks effortlessly sassy, sexy and cool. At 51, she's been touring her greatest hits set for years but still plays the songs with such a power and passion that they could have been written yesterday. Her supreme voice, sounding like it's been tarmacked by rock & roll, cuts through the huge PA, and her band's glam rock & roll stomps makes her, oddly, the last survivor of that very British strain of glam-rock that was the true sound of the early 70s. The youthful Jett would hang out in the glam clubs in LA, soaking up the British glamtastic rock & roll that was far different from the American glam that was to follow.

Instead of the clumsy appropriation of glam from the likes of Kiss, British glam was stompingly dark yet good-time music with tribal beats and big choruses. No one does this music any more apart from Jett, who adds a rock & roll vim and fire to the mix and has created a music that perfectly suits her no bullshit persona - a persona that has seen her lauded as one of the key mentors of the riot Grrrl scene. Joan Jett wanted to play rock & roll on her own terms and succeeded. Her cover of the Arrows 'I Love Rock & Roll' is still a totemic moment and one of THE great rock & roll anthems: when she does that guttural scream thing in the middle, it still affects your groin in a strange and beautiful way.

Joan Jett rules and it's now time for us to acknowledge this.

Green Day, too, have some history. They may still look like teen brats, but they've been around for over two decades.

It's been a long time since I was compering a gig at the legendary and just shut TJs venue in Newport. They were the first band on - some awkward, scruffy kids from San Francisco playing a speedball punk pop set to 20 fanatics at the bottom of some long-lost punk rock bill.

That night, they were plying their trade in that curious gap that existed just after Nirvana, who had reawakened interest in punk rock and inspired a generation of kids to search for a Nirvana of their own, having just missed out on their raw and visceral power.

Green Day emerged from the Gilman Street scene in San Francisco, the ultra idealistic punk rock venue that started in 1986 a year before the band were formed. They were virtually the house band in the venue, and part of the scene of bands who were shackling melody to the fierce power of hardcore.

Hardcore had rewritten the American underground, and had already spawned its own legends and hardcore crews. Ignored by the mainstream rock critics, hardcore has been the backbone of American rock for decades. Green Day were never hardcore, but were part of its idealistic take on punk rock and were very much part of the next shift - the Californian twist that added sweet melodies to the hardcore rush.

They signed to local label Lookout records and toured their way up the punk rock food chain. Their 1994 major label release of Dookie saw the band hit the mainstream powered by the international hit single 'Basket Case'. The twitching urgency of the song and their live performances was a perfect assimilation of nervy teenage neuroses, and the band have somehow managed to retain that youthful excitement with a rapidly developing musical template that is documented in tonight's show.

Sure, they still play their harder, punkier tunes; songs played with such feral energy that the dumb claims that they are not punk are swiftly thrown out the window. This had became very much part of the debate about Green Day... are they or are they not punk?

It's an odd debate. A couple of years ago, Mr. Butter Ad himself, John Lydon, was sneering at Green Day for not being punk - yet while they may be removed from the filth and the fury of The Sex Pistols, they've both straddled the great pop divide. Defining what is or isn't punk is a treacherous game, played only by fools and people not sure of how to define the indefinable. Punk is so many different things to different people that to force it into one specific sound, style or genre is quite foolish. The argument runs that Green Day's success and capability of writing super catchy songs rules them out of the punk lineage; but it would surely be the ultimate in selling out if Billie Joe Armstrong suddenly pretended that he could not wrote a catchy song that transcended boundaries, and deliberately kept his band underground to attempt to appeal to the ultra snobby purists who have filled the movement with their own petty rules.

The fact is, Green Day write great pop songs and deliver them with a ferocity that many punk bands seem incapable of. They are also the most influential guitar band of the last two decades, with a whole bizarre cross section of young groups picking up guitars in suburban garages to the sound of Green Day - far more, for example, than pet bands like The Strokes. They hardly fit into the accepted story of 'How Things Are' and hideous indie snobs run from them, scared of their capability to talk to a whole raft of people.

Old Trafford is a true triumph for a band that has it all. The scope in their song writing is breathtaking, the switching of genres and styles astonishing, and the way they manage it all within the parameters of the punk-rock code is perfect. It's the way that somehow they filter a whole gamut of pop culture and pop music through the sieve of punk-rock and make music that relates to the fractured 21st century that is stunning.

And they also do this with a great sense of humour and a willingness to engage with their audience that terrifies the snobs. It's not only supremely effective but decidedly natural. The set is also full of pranks and moments of supreme silliness that are hilarious and engaging. Billie Joe is like a perpetually hyperactive five-year-old with his mad, staring kohled-up-eyes and a supreme warmth which defies boring concepts of rock & roll cool and its studied posing. The fact that his band rock so hard that it doesn't really matter how goofy they become also helps.

They are the ultimate small town band, for all the small towns in the world ganging up on fake city cool and winning. They are a thrillingly powerful rock & roll band - a group who took punk rock to the mainstream and won, and whose live show is the best stadium show in the world in 2010.

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Jun 17, 2010 2:52pm

Sorry, but the show was nearly 3 hours long, not 2. Bloody good value for money as well. Too bad there isn't much in this article about the actual performance, which was super-charged, technically brilliant, surprisingly intimate for a stadium gig, and both over-the-top and sublime. A complete triumph. Plus the best weather for Manchester in years!

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Jun 17, 2010 3:40pm

In reply to rick:

Agree totally with Rick.
It was near 3 hours of entertainment from a world class rock band and world class entertainer.
Were it on again tonight I would go again!

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Jun 17, 2010 4:09pm


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Jun 17, 2010 7:06pm

They Were Amazing, great value for money and really funny.

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Jun 17, 2010 9:27pm

It was nearly 3 hours long and as soon as green day hit the stage everybody was up and dancing there was a mega mosh pit!!! Green day really knew how to rock with Billie and tre swapping instruments 4 times!!! We beat Germany on the longest hey-oh which I actually was VERY happy about!!! they sold t-shirts, posters, hoodies loads a stuff!! I loved it how they did a guns and roses cover and metallica!!!! The pink bunny before hand really got the crowd excited!!!

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Alex Burrows
Jun 17, 2010 9:41pm

Terrible news. TJs in Newport has really closed? That gig at TJs was when Green Day played support at the farewell show (before the subsequent one-off reunion) of Bath's long-forgotten but legendary pioneering ska-punk band, Knucklehead.

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Jun 17, 2010 11:41pm

In reply to rick:

Maybe Rick didn't read the reviw but I'm sure everything he mentioned in his lost of things missing was actually mentioned. These sort ofcfanscthat moan even when a band get a great review are funny! Nor a great fan of the band myself but the concert sounded like fun.

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peter r
Jun 18, 2010 12:55am

my 14 year old daughter, 16 year old son and I just had the best night of our lives at Old Trafford, thank you GREEN DAY! (and Frank and Joan too!)

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Jun 18, 2010 3:16am

The Gilman Stret venue is in Berkeley, closer in the East Bay to where they grew up and they currently reside in Oakland...I live nearby. I love Green Day and hope they help make a push to get the band they owe their career to into the Hall of Fame, Manchester's own Buzzcocks...did they at least do "Ever Fallen in Love" since they were there?

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Jun 18, 2010 6:59am

Awesome set. I took my 14yr old daughter as part of her birthday celebrations and we jumped, rocked and swayed less than ten meters from the stage for the whole pulsating 3 hours. Was there a song in there that they left out? No! They made room for every track you'd want to hear and made every one of them feel like you were hearing it for the first time. The fact that Billie Joe gets the whole crowd up on a wave of expectation and then delivers 110% is the reason Green Day are simply the best band in the world today, and the reason why my 14yr old girl had a birthday present she'll never ever forget.

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Jun 18, 2010 7:44am

as someone who has been into punk rock for 30 years or more i have to say what a fantastic live band green day are they seem to have bridged the boundrys and snobbery of punk! is it cool if you are into hardcore british punk to admit to liking green day! as i was entering old trafford on wednesday i bumped into a guy called andy who plays bass for hardcore 80s punks one way system who is a fan well there you have it! long live green day and punk rock.

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Jun 18, 2010 9:12am

best gig of my life!
the almost 3 hour set was funny, engaging and packed with so much energy i don't think anyone will have left with out feeling the buzz. Green Days performance was truly thrilling. i got a mike's guitar pick and the set list at the end, making my experience of seeing my favorite band an even more memorable one. Thank you guys.

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Jun 18, 2010 10:27am

In reply to Georgie:

It was indeed nearly 3 hours and just not long enough - I could have stayed all night! The 3rd time I've seen them and I wouldn't have believed they could be better this time, but amazingly they were. A phenomenal gig - well done that band, and thank you!!!

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Jun 18, 2010 10:30am

AMEN! That was the most articulate assessment of Green Day and their style I think I've ever heard or read. Every word absolutely right on.

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Jun 18, 2010 12:25pm

I think Frank Turner deserved a mention as he put the 100-year-old Joan Jett to shame with his perfectly crafted songs. Watch this space in years to come! FRANK TURNER HARDCORE.

As for Green Day....what else needs to be said? Sublime.

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Mark G
Jun 18, 2010 2:10pm

Couldn't agree more with some of the above comments. I actually wonder if the reviewer was actually there!! How anybody could think the Green Day set was under two hours is beyond me. It was nearly 3 hours of class. Quality music, fantastic entertainment, great crowd involvement, and, with thanks to the other members of the crowd there, some fantastic singing, and not just from Billie Joe. A great gig. Thanks GD!!

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Jun 18, 2010 4:02pm

In reply to Sham:

Hi are entitled to your opinion of my post, but please quote me one thing from the review that was specific to the LCC gig. LED backdrop? It's at every show. "...sense of humour" and "...full of pranks." It's at every show. Supported by Joan Jett? Well she's been with them for at least 6 shows before this one. So my point is, if you are going to review the show, write about THAT SHOW and whether or not it was great, average, citing examples from THAT SHOW. Everything in the article above could have applied to any recent show. Yes it is a positive review, but of which show? Substitute Munich for any reference to Manchester and it would read just fine. The only reference to anything actually happening on the night is the mention of the "balmy Mancunian evening". So yes I am having a moan about the review, because it is lazy, non-specific, completely generic, cut and paste review. So you are sure he mentioned a lot of stuff the ACTUALLY happened in Manchester? Such as what? The weather? Yeah...great review

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Jun 18, 2010 5:51pm

There wasn't much written about what actually happened at Manchester in here...
I saw them and it was the best gig I have ever been to! I was having such a good time that I didn't even realise that I'd broken my toe until I got out.
This was the second time I've seen them and I cannot fault them at all! Not one bit.
I may only be 15 but I know that I'll remember that night for a very, very long time.

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Jun 18, 2010 8:39pm

I've seen Green Day once before, on their '09 tour, and didn't think anything could beat that. Somehow, they topped it. I agree with every word of that review, though I do think there could've been some more specific references to the show itself. Pretty much the best three hours I've ever had; it was electric. They've been my favourite band for years, and that was an amazing night. One I'll never forget.

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Jun 18, 2010 9:39pm

What a gig! Travelled from South Wales to see the show - if it was on again tomorrow I'd happily walk from Wales to Manchester to see it again! Glad I saw it at Old Trafford, it's big but still intimate, a great place for gigs. (Saw Radiohead there two years ago, another stunning event). Personally think it'll lose some of the intamacy in a big bowl like Wembley - that said, if any band can make everyone feel included in the event, no matter what the size of the venue, then it'd be Greenday. Undoubtedley one of the very best gig I've ever seen, anyone who can get to Wembley for Saturday who's not seen Greenday and maybe not sure if it's their cup of tea, I beg you - get along and see these guys. They're at the top of their game, you won't have seen a more down to earth band, totally connected to their fans. They are the ONLY 'big stadium' band I've ever seen that obviously, genuinely care about their fans. Long may they rule!!!

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Ivy Ramsbottom
Jun 18, 2010 11:37pm

Didn't make the show but agree with your remarks about Green Day. They are just awesome!!!!

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paul andrews
Jun 19, 2010 10:22am

Just read the review and the excitement level within is off the scale for tonight gig at wembley. Great article about a great band. Roll on the only kick off that really matters in June !

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Jun 19, 2010 10:46am


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Jun 19, 2010 11:10am

In reply to :

Great reviews, thanks - I'm off to Wembley to see them later, can anyone who was at Manchester gig give me a start time and running order - the gates open at 4.30 - just want to make sure I don't miss anything! Masive GD fan.

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Jun 19, 2010 11:30am

Just to say. The show was 2 and 3/4 hours long, therefore it was nearly 3 hours! And also, the capacity of Old trafford is 50,000 and though it wasn't quite sold out (with a few seats remaining) i'd also say it was closer to 45,000 there at least! But all in all, it looks a good article (:

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Jun 19, 2010 12:22pm

In reply to rick:

I don't know where some of these comments have come from...Rick what do you want from the reviewer- a list of songs? A weather report? A description of each member of the audience? A list of references to Manchester? Green Day are taking a great set around on a world tour, the reviewer puts this into context reviewing the gig for people who are into music and not trainspotting. the review is published on a music website not a Green Day blog. The fact is the review could have been roughly the same from each venue that is true of all rock n roll.
Me? I'm just glad to read a review that understands the band.

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Jun 19, 2010 12:48pm

Best night of my life. Great weather. Great songs (which i thought they wouldn't be singing. Right at the front. Simply Amazing. Will defenatly be seeing them again

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Jun 19, 2010 1:37pm

agree the show was nearly three hours long the way they get the crowd involved by getting the audience on stage to sing there songs with them is pure class and shows they are still down to earth and dont forget where they came from

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Jun 19, 2010 1:49pm

In reply to Sime:

green day came on at 10.50 get ready for the best gig of your life

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Jun 19, 2010 1:52pm

In reply to :

sorry 20.50

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Jun 19, 2010 2:31pm

In reply to Dutch:

Hey I'm not looking for a audience manifest or a complete set list, but equally I don't want a Green Day / Punk scene history lesson. I would have hoped for something that summed up the energy, excitement and specifics of that performance. If you read a review of the Halle Orchestra's performance of a particular symphony would don't normally get a lesson in classical music composition. If you read a report of a football match you don't read about last week's game.
Just want a review of THAT SHOW....too much to ask? Ok how about this....I'll just think of this article as simply a feature that has eff-all to do with reviewing the Manchester show, but was motivated by being there.

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Jun 20, 2010 2:45am

I loved the show, so much energy from the crowd and from billie, tre, mike and jason. Tre cool was hilarious as always, what I like is how green day have managed to have mainstream fans and people who aren't, I could see it in the crowd, I did get some enjoyment out of seeing people flee to the back when green day come on and the usually pushing and mosh pits started, I shouldnt of but I did.

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billie joe
Jun 20, 2010 5:30am

agreed.but i can hear more of the who in them than ..clash..american idiot was the shit

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Jun 20, 2010 9:35pm

Went to see both the Lancaster gig and wembley! Both absolutly amazing! Bring on the next green day gigs! Best band by far!!!! Seen them 3 times this year and still would go tomorrow if I had the chance!

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hayley hottubs
Jun 21, 2010 1:00pm

In reply to Paul:

hey paul thats so true about the pit i got to the barrier while the weak headed for the hills fair enough! its not for everyone! but its where wembley stadium missed 1 small point for me ppl at the front in the barricaded pit who just shouldnt have been there!!! o well i was in it haha!!!

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Jun 22, 2010 3:24pm

they just are the best of punk rock of world and nothing can be better
green day i love you

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Jun 22, 2010 11:55pm

I agree, it was about 3hrs. Absolutely fantastic gig, best I've ever seen. Their musical precision was awe-inspiring and faultless. Drove from Aberdeen to see them; would happily walk it next time. And its great to see that everyone felt pretty much the same way about it. When's the next one?

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Jul 9, 2010 5:40am

They come from california and not san francisco!!!

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Jul 19, 2010 12:02pm

it was 3 hours btw :)

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Aug 24, 2010 6:29am

I have never seen a more talented and commited band in all my life. Green Day has definately brought something new to music. I was just at their concert tonight at DTE in Clarkston Michigan and what can I say, I was blown away by how energetic and amazing performers they all are, and Billie Joe sure is fucking crazy on stage! I really didn't have much fun because we had lawn tickets and my mom and sister kept complaining how they couldn't see them while me and my dad were enjoying the concert. Well all I know is next time... I'm not getting lawn tickets that's for sure!! Green Day is amazing and I wish I could go to their concerts every night of my life, trust me, I would never be bored with going to see them every night, that would make my life.

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Aug 24, 2010 6:34am

In reply to Alex Burrows:

I have no idea what the hell you just said.... O O

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Aug 24, 2010 6:36am

In reply to kunal:

To be clear, Oakland California. And is it true that Billie Joe was born in London England but raised in Cali, I have no clue. I was reading it on an article a few days ago, it got me very confused.

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Apr 1, 2011 8:12pm

This entire post gmh. :)

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