19 May 2009

Small, Rabbitlike, Eyelinered

That's what the critic from the New York Times had to say about Billie Joe Armstrong, who last night led Green Day through a triumphant return to New York City in the more or less intimate surroundings of the Bowery Ballroom. My first reaction on reading that description was to say, "Oh, good, I'm going to torment Billie mercilessly about being rabbitlike," until I remembered that I had turned over a new leaf after my bad behavior with Tre on Saturday (I apologized profusely, because I really did feel bad about it) and was not going to tease people anymore, even when they deserved it, which Billie, after his stunning performance of last night, certainly does not.

On top of that, I recalled that there was a period in my own life when I was frequently described as resembling a rabbit, not that this has anything at all to do with the subject at hand, but when did I ever let that stop me? It was in the 60s, when I somehow emerged as the first among equals (I think because I had the biggest mouth and was the least incoherent) in this particularly demented and vaguely Mansonian (fortunately for the local villagers, our pursuits ran more along the lines of sex, drugs, and deconstructing the latest Donovan album than the ritual slaughter and evisceration of the bourgeoisie) Midwestern hippie commune.

Having remarked often enough on my alleged leporinity (okay, rabbit-ness), my colleagues took it upon themselves to cut out a picture of a rabbit and paste it above my bed (okay, my mat and/or pile of rags) with the legend, "Our Leader." As it happened, however, they were so stoned that all they could come up with was a National Geographic photo of a kangaroo. And if you can see where I'm going with this, you have a more incisive mind than I.

Oh yes, the Bowery Ballroom. Well, as it happens, I was fortunate enough to be there (my first full-fledged Green Day show in almost five years!), and if this is any indication of what the summer tour is going to be like, audiences have something pretty spectacular to look forward to. It's not always easy to extrapolate from a club-sized show to an arena or stadium-sized one, and it's also quite challenging to shrink the sound and performance geared to Madison Square Garden into a 550-capacity Lower East Side club, but apart from a few mid-show glitches with the guitar sound, the band and their astonishingly adept crew pulled it off seamlessly.

For the first 10 or 15 minutes and the last 20 or 25 minutes I'm just about prepared to say it was the best show I've ever seen (some competitors for that title: the Supremes at the Michigan State Fair in 1965, the GoGos in San Francisco in 1980, and the Ramones at UC's Pauley Ballroom that same year). In fact, about 10 minutes in I loudly declared that to be fact, which might have been premature, since one of the most vital criteria for "best show ever" is that all through the show there's never a doubt in your mind, not even for a millisecond, that what you are witnessing/participating in is perfection itself. Never once do you stop to think, "I wonder how much longer they're going to play," or "Oh, I wish they'd play such-and-such song instead of this one."

And while Green Day never played any songs I didn't want to hear, I could compile a substantial list of the songs I wish they did. I know, hideously ungrateful of me, especially since they'd already torn through a dazzling set that would have left most bands gasping for air by the midway point. The trouble is that when you've been a band for as long as Green Day have (21 years, as Billie proudly pointed out), and have written so many of outstanding songs, it's just not possible to play them all in one show.

That's what the more reasonable part of me says. The unreasonable part says, yeah, but if only I could have heard "Holiday", "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Whatshername", and maybe a couple more from "the old days." But hey, we did get to hear "Going to Pasalacqua" (!), (and with a personal dedication to me, no less; if I hadn't been so startled, I would have been able to scream a lot louder), "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?", and "Dominated Love Slave". "No!" I shouted "Don't let him play guitar," thinking back to Lookouts practices when Tre would abandon his drums and start jamming on my guitar the minute I left it unguarded. When Billie had to remind Tre of how the chords went, the girl next to me said, "I see what you mean," but actually, I had to admit to her, Tre's a very good guitarist. Probably better than me, which was the real reason I didn't like him playing mine.

Oof. There's much more to tell, but I've got to be off to the city. Here, read Bill Moon's review on the PPMB for the set list and some further mostly cogent ravings about how awesome it all was, and I'll be back later with (hopefully) some more stories about last night's show and maybe tonight's as well.

1 comment:

Gabe Meline said...

"And while Green Day never played any songs I didn't want to hear, I could compile a substantial list of the songs I wish they did."

I felt the same way, seeing them in Oakland last month. They now have such a massive stockpile of fantastic songs that it's impossible to conceive a perfect set list; there'll always be something missing. And yet unlike other artists with enormous back-catalogs of great songs that I've seen—Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen—the list of "dream songs" didn't enter my head until after the show. That's really saying something.

I'm glad you've been able to spend so much time with them lately. They still totally rule.