It's been four years since the punk rock trio Green Day last released an album, but now they are back on tour filling arenas worldwide with new guitar riffs and rebellious lyrics.
Their new album, Revolution Radio, sticks with the band’s basics: Politically provocative with just the right amount of smugness to feel anti-establishment, yet wry enough to make you smile.
“Tonight is about freedom,” frontman Billie Joe Armstrong yelled at the start of their concert in Oslo, Norway.
It was, but perhaps even moreso, it was about the music.
Armstrong commanded audience members to put down their phones and live in the moment. He said he didn’t want to see their phones, but instead wanted to see their faces and hear their voices. After all, this was a concert; everyone was there for the music, not selfies.
Green Day is a band where form follows function. Just as the architectural principle states that the shape of a building or object should be based on its function or purpose, the same goes for this ska-inspired band. Its function is making music.
The group began in 1986 in California, and its first worldwide commercial success was in 1994 with the album, Dookie. The next two albums were also successful. Then came the album Warning in 2000, which had a tepid response and prompted many to wonder if the group was losing its relevance.
Green Day kept at it, focusing on making music. Then came American Idiot, which put the band atop the music charts again in 2004 and earned two Grammys. At the time Armstrong told Rolling Stone that “for the first time in our career, it's all about the music".
From the sound of Revolution Radio, it seems they’ve hung on to that ideal.
In fact, it has all of the hallmarks of a Green Day album. There’s the intensely aggressive, “Bang Bang”. With its staccato lyrics and grinding guitar it's like a mix of the group’s previous hits “Basket Case” and “St. Jimmy”. Then there’s the acoustic guitar starting a slow build that explodes into heavy drums and even heavier guitar riffs (“Somewhere Now”). This is followed by the multi-layered and interestingly paced somewhat power-anthem. It was “Jesus of Suburbia” on American Idiot and “Forever Now” on Revolution Radio.
The album’s mix of highs and lows matches the band’s roller coaster performance style. In Oslo, fiery explosions punctuated booming drums, which were accompanied by plumes of flames so large the audience could feel the heat all the way in the upper balconies of the 8,700-seat venue.
There were also water cannons and confetti, but the crowd favourites were whenever a fellow fan would get pulled to the stage. Green Day has always done this at their concerts, inviting people onstage to sing or often play guitar alongside them. One of those Oslo fans was a 10-year-old boy who played with Armstrong, and at the end of the song, the kid got to keep the guitar.
It didn’t come off as gimmicky, but rather a sincere gesture that was simply all about the music.