Features

A Green Day At The Qwest Center

Omaha, Nebraska, USA; May 15, 2005

by Sean McCarthy

Midway through opening act My Chemical Romance's set, lead singer Gerard Way asked the audience to scream or raise their hands if this show was their first concert. A large number of kids screamed, my 14-year-old nephew among them. Way asked all first-time concertgoers to thank their uncles, fathers, mothers, big brothers and big sisters for being such cool (expletive withheld). I didn't consider myself to be that cool -- I just wanted my nephew to experience the performance of one of his favorite albums live, and loud.

For first-time concertgoers, Green Day rolled out almost every tired concert cliché imaginable at the audience. The wave, a cover of Queen's "We Are The Champions," countless "what section is louder" contests, nearly a ton of confetti dumped on the audience and enough pyrotechnics to singe the eyebrows off of the first third of the floor section. Green Day even threw in a bit of fascist imagery a la Pink Floyd's The Wall with three draped backdrops of the American Idiot 'grenade heart' icon.

For a crowd you might expect to have punk pretensions, Green Day's concert reeked of the very excess of rock that punk was trying to destroy in the '70s. But Green Day has been always been able to poke fun at themselves, even when the band made one of the most politically incendiary albums of the decade with American Idiot. Put aside the "cellphone and bic lighter moments" and the ridiculously campy cover of "King For A Day" and Green Day was still able to win over even the most jaded indie purist in the audience with their relentless energy.

While I did my best to remain in my restrained "non-embarassing uncle" mode, it was impossible not to geek out and jump up and down during the blistering opener of "American Idiot," when the Nazi-like backdrop dropped, revealing the three pranksters from northern California. My personal highlight had to be Green Day's absolutely devastating performance of the lesser-known two-minute bombshell, "Jaded."

Green Day has been known to bring members of the audience onstage to play while the bend took a brief rest and the Qwest Center show was no different. Billy Joe Armstrong dragged a novice drummer, guitar player and bassist from the crowd to play a number -- and then Armstrong gave his guitar to the elated Iowa-raised guitarist and forced the drummer to take a stage dive.

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Green Day salutes the masses at Omaha's Qwest center.
Photo courtesy of q985fm.com (Stephanie Jacobsen).

Green Day performed "American Idiot," "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Holiday" with barely a pause in between songs. I was hoping they would perform American Idiot in its entirety, but there were few complaints when the crowd heard the first few opening chords of "Longview." My nephew and I were on the floor and saw a few polite mosh pits break out. Polite meaning friendly, careless shoving, not black-eye-threatening moshing.

Armstrong routinely perched up and stretched his hands out in full rockstar Jesus Christ pose. And with an album like American Idiot and highlights from Dookie, Warning, Nimrod and Insomniac, Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt deserved the mantle of rock star gods at least until the conclusion of this tour.

The only major flaw was the unnecessary interruptions throught the show to engage the crowd in the generic rock show cliches that have long since worn out their welcome. Still, this is the voice of a cynic talking. In the eyes of an elated 14-year-old, it was everything he could have expected and then some. And I guess if I had to choose a "my very first concert" even to take my nephew, I can't think of a better band to see than Green Day in 2005.




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