American pop-punk veterans Green Day are no strangers to controversy. To some degree, it’s become their trade. Having led a revival of the genre in the early Nineties, the Californian trio left behind their identity as a bratty, irreverent bunch of green-haired, working-class jokers and fired a bracing blast of agitprop with their 2004 concept album American Idiot – a protest against the Iraq war and a direct call to arms to oust the country’s most powerful from office.
Critics have downplayed Green Day’s punk status since the band “sold out” to a mainstream label: you can’t be anti-establishment if you make it big. Their shtick, however, has always been driven by the confused reality of life. Last year’s Revolution Radio album continued their protest march, and with another divisive Republican president to charge against, it’s only added fuel to their fire. Indeed, following a recent public address to Donald Trump at the American Music Awards – where dynamo frontman Billie Joe Armstrong chanted “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA!” – Green Day might want to wake up when 2020 ends.
Similarly, in London for the last date of the UK leg of their world tour, Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool, launched into a caustic rendition of 2009 hit Know Your Enemy before bellowing that the night was about freedom and unity. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was political theatre – and, indeed, the night had a faint whiff of a student protest – but Armstrong is an indefatigable showman and retains an edge and charm that makes him one of music’s most personable performers.
With his dishevelled nest of jet-black hair, he hurtled around the stage for three hours with boyish vim, directing his audience into a sea of pogoing mops. Despite the rage-fuelled lyrics, the overall tone harked back to their earlier goofiness.
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