Toronto – Perhaps it was best that Green Day were in Canada on the evening of the U.S. presidential election; after all, it’s here that they can share the almost unanimous anti-Bush sentiments in an almost-packed Air Canada Centre.
“Well, hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a brand new President,” Billie Joe Armstrong said to a roar of cheers. “I fuckin’ hate him and I think he’s more of a threat to the world than Saddam Hussein.”
And though the dads of pop-punk were away from home, the enthusiastic crowd – which included one fan with a “Fuck Bush” sign – made them feel at home. It’s rare to see an audience respond, clap, shout and sing along to almost every single song and it seemed as if the new cuts off of their latest American Idiot disc were already fan favourites.
Warped Tour alumni Sugarcult and New Found Glory warmed things up, inviting the teenage punks to practice their moshing and crowd surfing. Sugarcult, while offering little that’s new to the pop-punk plate, pulled together a tight set that won points when Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz made a surprise appearance to sing some vocals. New Found Glory’s kinetic set was filled with jumping and standing on amps and attempting to blow eardrums before the headliners went on. Unfortunately, bad the melodic emo whine of Jordan Pundik becomes grating after a few songs.
But clearly the kids and aging basket cases had come for Green Day and when Armstrong and his long-time conspirators, bassist Mike Dirnt and wacky beat man Tre Cool, took the stage the crowd quickly got on their feet without coaxing.
In front of a grand, yet simple backdrop of tracklights, red banners and a marquee spelling out the band’s name, the trio, entirely clad in black, save for Armstrong’s red tie and socks and Cool’s silver tie, unleashed much of the first half of their new album. Acting as crowd maestro, the ever-boyish Armstrong waved his arms to spawn countless fist-pumping shouts and screaming throughout the night.
Things lagged a bit in the middle of the set. Attempting to please all and interact with the fans, Armstrong pulled a few fans up on stage to play the instruments to close their cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge,” a long process that grew tedious for the unchosen ones. Or maybe we were just jealous that the kid who took over Armstrong’s guitar got to keep it.
But now that they’ve managed to turn punk rock into arena rock, they have to pull out the big numbers (in addition to confetti and pyrotechnics). While the tunes on Idiot might actually be some of the best work they’ve done, songs like “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “Minority,” “Geek Stink Breath,” “Hitchin’ A Ride” (for which Armstrong returned to his hijinks by putting his hand down his pants and proceeded to moan), a solo electric closing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and even a faithful version of Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” which riled up some nostalgia from the crowd.
Best when they’re actually playing music and not playing with the fans, Green Day threw up the white flags (literally during “Homecoming”) and completely conquered. And even if they were unsure about who would lead their country in the next four years, their own arena-sized revolution promised they’d keep fighting ’til the end.