It’s been quite a while since seeing Green Day meant hoofing it over to Gilman Street and hoping you didn’t leave with a broken nose. Now, the pop-punk trio (plus recently anointed fourth member Jason White) is more likely to be found at a stadium like AT&T Park than an East Bay hole-in-the-wall. After all, their most recent album, Revolution Radio, debuted last week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. So you can imagine the chaos and glee that converged at the 1,400 capacity UC Theatre in Berkeley when Green Day took the stage on the night of Thursday, Oct. 20.
Social media brought stories of fans who had lined up at 11 p.m. the previous evening just to be sure they were up front and center when the band played mainstays like “When I Come Around” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” To enter the venue, one had to show an ID, which was then matched to tickets that were immediately scanned. Green Day went all out to ensure that Stubhub sharks and other shady scalpers had little chance to fill the UC with anyone but their biggest fans.
Opener Dog Party got the punk vibes flowing, and by 9 p.m., Green Day took the stage to the final notes of the Ennio Morricone theme, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
“East Bay!” Billie Joe screamed strolling up to the microphone, giving us a warm homecoming welcome before launching into a two-plus hour set. Here are seven highlights from the night that we hope we never forget.
1. A fan stage-diving after singing the chorus to “Longview”
Yes, Green Day has done this many times before, but so what? It’s awesome. These moments are life-changing for the fans that get selected, a chance to share a stage with your favorite band and actually play part of a song with them. It’s a joy to behold. As frontman Billie Joe Armstrong pulled a young audience member on stage, he conferred with her, asking: “You’re sure you know the words, right?” She did, giving a nervous but awesome rendition of the Dookie classic’s chorus while the band played behind her. I caught Armstrong sincerely mouthing She’s good! to bassist Mike Dirnt from my side-stage vantage point before he instructed the fan to gloriously stage dive back into the crowd.
2. Armstrong’s Donald Trump rant during “Holiday”
For those familiar with the song “Holiday,” you’ll recall a bridge section in which Billie Joe adapts the persona of a greedy Representative from California. For Thursday’s rendition, he pre-empted the lyrics by asking the crowd if they wanted Trump to win the presidency. Fans booed as Armstrong ratcheted up the act, reveling in his momentary role as the crooked politician. Finally breaking character, he screamed, “Well, what do you want?!” I’m not exactly sure what response he was hoping for — Hillary? Democracy? Another PBR?— but it was certainly an especially electric moment in a night filled with energy. While it’s not likely many at a Green Day show are undecided on who they’ll choose on Nov. 8, it was a reminder that Green Day has never been afraid to be political.
3. Various instances of crowd-surfing
Remember crowd-surfing? Green Day fans do. Despite very lame white paper signs taped to the venue’s bathroom doors declaring UC Theatre’s stance against the activity — “Moshing & Crowd Surfing is Not Advised”— an encouraging number of fans happily ignored their advice. It’s hard to envision a Green Day show where someone isn’t being tossed around like a rag-doll during the final chorus of “Welcome to Paradise,” and luckily on Thursday night, no one had to. Trying to discern whether Green Day is still punk is an article unto itself (in my humble opinion, no, they’re probably not), but that doesn’t mean the fans that come to see them aren’t. Bless those reckless souls that let their limbs get fondled by strangers — you are the future.
4. Everyone singing the lyrics to everything
Down in the front pit (the only place to see Green Day from as far as I’m concerned), I, at various points, turned around mid-song only to see fans matching Armstrong (and myself) word for word. It didn’t matter if the song was from 1992 (“Christie Road”) or less than a week old (“Youngblood”) — these people knew the words, and it was amazing and invigorating to both partake and witness a group sing-a-long in such a large capacity. Before this, I had legitimate concerns that the show might be overrun by what I’ll call “the Hot Topic crowd”— fans that only discovered the band after the success of 2004’s American Idiot. But this was not the case. Even the young fans knew the old hits, and it was everything.
5. The band playing “Stuart and the Avenue”
While my brother and I waited in line for the show, I told him it was my standard custom to pick one slightly deeper Green Day cut and hope like hell they’d play it. For Thursday night’s show, I picked “Stuart and the Avenue,” an upbeat rocker from 1995’s Insomniac. Given that the band was there to promote a new album and had, in the past, given short shrift to earlier albums outside of Dookie, I was floored when they kicked into “Stuart and the Avenue” early on. After finishing the song, Armstrong mentioned that it was written about an intersection only several blocks away, and noted that the band has “so many songs about the Bay Area,” sounding somewhat surprised, as if he’d only just realized it then.
6. Mike Dirnt being a bass god
Billie Joe is the front man and Tre Cool is the crazy one. But Mike Dirnt is sometimes forgotten as the glue of Green Day, the man who wields a sharp, speedy bass and is only too happy to leave the majority of on-stage theatrics to his bandmates. Listening to Green Day’s 12 album discography, the common thread of Dirnt’s talent and stamina as a bassist was readily apparent. He is a joy to see live, and as much a part of who Green Day is as his cohorts.
7. Free posters!
The gig may not have been at the Fillmore, but props to Green Day and the UC Theatre for sending everyone in attendance home with a poster to commemorate the evening. I know there’s a cost that comes with making 1,400 posters, but the smiles on each person’s sweat-drenched faces as they received their surprise gift was the final reminder of what a special evening we had all just shared.
Know Your Enemy
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Stuart and the Ave.
Welcome to Paradise
Hitchin’ a Ride
Are We the Waiting
When I Come Around
King for a Day
Shout / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction / Hey Jude
Forever Now (Live debut)
Jesus of Suburbia
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)