Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK
6th February 2017
I’m not usually a fan of arena concerts, I tend to find they lack they the atmosphere and intimacy of the small to mid sized venues, add to this that these enormous venues aren’t usually designed for live music, they are better suited to Disney on ice or sports events, along with the inflated bar and merchandise prices and the ridiculous queues for absolutely everything, you potentially have a recipe for a disappointing and expensive evening. But I must make it clear that I’m in no way blaming the bands for this state of affairs, there is no way that Green Day could appear at any other venue in Manchester and play to everyone that wanted to see them, and on the basis of tonight’s crowd I’d guess there were still a fair few disappointed fans, so the choice is to simply to put up with the downside of these shows, or stay at home, and as I’ve missed the last few tours by Green Day I’m taking the former option.
Green Day are touring in support of, Revolution Radio, their twelfth studio album, and a release that has marked something of a return to form for the band, this epic tour is covering three continents, countless countries and tonight is the penultimate night of the first European leg of the tour, one that has covered pretty much all of Western Europe, and for me there is a added attraction to this section of the tour as Green Day are accompanied by The Interrupters, a band I’ve wanted to catch live ever since I heard their triumphant sophomore album, Say It Out Loud, that for me was one of the best albums to be released in 2016. As it’s an early start for their set the only sensible option is to brave the rush hour traffic, and the typically damp Mancunian weather, and head down to the Manchester Arena to ensure I catch them.
There is a fine selection of well chosen tunes covering the last forty years of punk belting out in the arena, everything from seventies UK punk acts such as The Clash and Elvis Costello, through to harder edged American acts such as Bad Religion, which marks a promising start to the evening prior to the opening set by The Interrupters. The three Bivona brothers that make up three quarters of the band, who are clad in matching monochrome outfits, and vocalist Aimee Interrupter take to the stage, whilst the arena is nowhere near full, a healthy crowd has had the good sense to turn up early to catch tonight’s support act. From the opening number, A Friend Like Me, it’s clear that The Interrupters are going to make a lot of friends tonight, the sound is perfect for their set and their enthusiasm and energy shines out from the opening chords.
Despite not having played venues of this size before The Interrupters seem at home on the cavernous stage, their set is a riotous high energy snapshot of their career to date, with a few well chosen covers thrown in, Too Much Pressure by The Selecter and Operation Ivy‘s Sound System, that highlight their influences. My personal highlights from the set were By My Side, She Got Arrested and Media Sensation, all of which appeared on last years stunning sophomore album, Say It Out Loud. The Interrupters capture the spirit of the original two tone movement like no other band that I’ve encountered, the hyperactive quartet swiftly garner an enthusiastic reception from the Green Day faithful with their short set of ska infused punk, a set that for me is all too brief, as this is a band that you need to see live if you get the chance.
The Manchester Arena is packed by the time Green Day are due take to the stage, after the welcome of selection of punk tunes the epic Queen single Bohemian Rhapsody emerges from the PA, and it receives a response from the crowd that is straight out of Wayne’s World, this was followed by the Ramones classic Bliztkrieg Bop, which is accompanied, for some reason, by a cheerleading drunken pink bunny, that I strongly suspect was Tre Cool, warming the crowd up, before the ominous strains of Ennio Morricone‘s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly ring out indicating that Green Day‘s arrival is now imminent. I’ve previously seen Green Day at this venue, back on the Warning tour, a tour which was marred by many of the pitfalls I highlighted earlier, any concerns I may have had about history repeating itself were swiftly laid to rest by Green Day.
Green Day open with a rousing Know Your Enemy, with Billie Joe Armstrong engaging the crowd from the off, these days Green Day are augmented by three additional musicians, providing additional guitars and vocals, and in the case of Jason Freese pretty much everything else, there are impressive pyrotechnics, that I can feel the heat from from my stage right position, circle pits appear early in the set and there are rabble rousing speeches for freedom, and of course against the baffling election of Donald Trump. The set covers much of Green Day‘s three decades and twelve studio albums, although much of it is drawn from the classic albums Dookie and American Idiot, and of course their latest album, Revolution Radio, but it includes material from the majority of their releases, including a few numbers from their 1991 sophomore album, Kerpunk.
It was pleasing to hear Billie Joe Armstrong make a plea for people to stop filming the concert, not for copyright or ego reasons but encouraging people to live in the moment rather than filming it, a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse, there was a brief reduction following this appeal, but it was sadly shortlived. Their set veers between the epic numbers, that are designed for arenas, and their upbeat punker material, and even a rather self indulgent extended medley that was comprised of King For A Day and compositions by George Michael, Lulu, Monty Python, The Undertones, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, whilst this might indicate a shift away from Punk, their decision to include a cover of Operation Ivy‘s Knowledge in their set, the second time this influential band has been covered tonight, indicates they are not as far removed as some would have you believe.
For their first encore they return with two tracks from what is regarded by many, myself included, as their best album, American Idiot, the title track from that LP and Jesus Of Suburbia are riotously received, before Billie Joe Armstrong returns on his own for a final downbeat acoustic encore. Green Day played an impressive two and a half hour set, they were so good tonight I almost forgot how much I dislike the Manchester Arena, and there is no higher praise I can think of. This was at it’s heart a rock show, but Green Day have retained enough of their roots to make it a punk rock show. I leave the arena to further vintage punk strains and the inevitably huge queues. By the time I actually exit the venue half the stage has already been dismantled by a small army of roadies, and when I eventually step outside, and finally get to have a cigarette, the roads surrounding the venue are flooded with a sweaty and delirious horde who are slowly making their way home in the chilly Manchester night.
Everything about tonight’s show, apart from the venue, was perfect, from the pre show music and The Interrupters flawless opening set onwards, throughout their set Green Day had the capacity crowd in the palm of the hands, from the opening chords of Know Your Enemy through to the delicate closing chords of the inevitable final encore, Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). I got the impression that this is a band that is still loving playing live, and importantly they are a band that still believes that rock n’ roll still has the capacity to change the world for the better. Green Day have kept there political rage, if anything it’s even more prominent now following recent unfortunate developments in US politics, yes they can be a little self indulgent in places, but what’s the point of playing an arena show if you can’t have fun with it?
Green Day will be returning to Europe later this year, as well as further legs that will cover Oceania and North America, and on the basis of tonight’s show this is a tour that you really don’t want to miss.
Tre Cool visited Manchester’s Cat Café whilst he was in the city, you can read about his visit here
The Punk Site review of The Interrupters 2016 album, Say It Out Loud, can be found here
The Interrupters website can be located here
Green Day‘s official website can be found here
, Green Day
, Monty Python
, Operation Ivy
, Punk Rock
, Ska Punk
, The Beatles
, The Interrupters
, The Rolling Stones
, The Selecter
, The Undertones
, Two Tone