It was my third time at the 9:30 Club in nearly as many days, but on Monday something about the venue seemed different. Barricades had been set up outside, and the alleyway behind the club had been turned into an expanded will call booth. When an act as big as Green Day decides to perform for 1,200 people in a small D.C. club, you pull out all the stops.
Tickets to see the punk rock legends sold out in less than five minutes, and every single one had to be picked up in person at the door. Miraculously, they were able to get nearly all the attendants into the venue within the hour between doors opening and the first act, Dog Party. It is pretty commonplace to have a few people asking for tickets to sold-out shows near the doors, but almost 40 people stood on the other side of the barricades looking for — no — praying for a way to get in.
The crowd ran the gamut of ages — from those who needed canes to stay standing, to those who weren’t old enough to remember the release of 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown, but everyone was there to experience something magical. Green Day has not played at the 9:30 Club since November 1997, and haven’t toured in the district since 2009, so it was a can’t-miss opportunity for any fans in the area.
Moments before the band was set to take the stage, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” played over the loudspeakers, inciting the crowd to sing along. A large pink, mangy bunny hopped onto the stage, taunting the audience and eating chocolate cupcakes (a 9:30 Club staple) with three girls in masks of the band members’ faces. After a brief photo opportunity, the warm-up group made way for Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool.
Starting off strong, the band opened with the song “Know Your Enemy,” coming out with a fervor that would be surprising for a group half their age. Near the end of the song, Armstrong brought a young boy up onto the stage. My heart started racing for the kid, and the deer-in-a-headlight look on his face showed that his did too. After some coaxing by the band, he sang some lines from the song before diving into the crowd, living out my greatest childhood dream right in front of me.
To me, that is what makes Green Day legends. I saw the look on everyone’s faces as they brought that kid up, and every single person in that room showed, at some point in their lives, they wanted to be in his place. There is something forever young about Green Day. Seeing them perform creates this mix of nostalgia and in-your-face “I’m alive”-ness that spreads throughout the atmosphere. No one listens to a Green Day song and says, “Oh, I remember that one!” When you listen to the music this band makes, it becomes a part of you, something you never forget.
When the band performed “Longview,” another boy, in black shirt and red pants, was brought on stage, this one a little less shell shocked. The band vamped behind them as Armstrong introduced the boy. He took the microphone, and like he was born to be in the limelight, began singing on cue. “My mother says to get a job/ but she don’t like the one she’s got/ When masturbation’s lost its fun, you’re fucking lonely.” Throwing up the devil horns before jumping around on stage, his performance elicited a bit more of a crowd response, to say the least.
Armstrong held up his signature “Blue” guitar, at one point and told the story of how his mother got it for him.
“My mom had a waitress job at a 24 hour place,” Armstrong said. “She saved up her tips and she bought this guitar for me. Thanks mom.”
The initial set was a mix of old and new, with a strong emphasis on American Idiot, but also included three songs from their Oct. 7 release Revolution Radio. The new music meshed well with the rest of the back catalog, and marked a return to a sort of happy medium between 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot, with the lead single “Bang Bang” containing the same aggressive political stylings that led to the band’s meteoric rise in the early 2000s.
The band’s encore ended with “Jesus of Suburbia,” the nine minute pop-punk ballad that tells the story of Jimmy, a lower-middle class American suburban teen. The epic song showcases the stylistic range the group has, from aggressive punk to piano, to nearly acoustic, all in five movements. The song is tasking to listen to, and to perform it is a feat in itself, but the rockers carried on, all guns blazing until the very end.
Armstrong, Cool, Dirnt and the live members of the band left the crowd in awe of the nearly two-hour set. After the lights dimmed, Armstrong returned with a black acoustic guitar, and played two more songs by himself. “Ordinary World” is off the new album, and while simplistic, acted as a nice reprieve from the night’s noise levels. Finally, Armstrong played “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which is a song you’ve heard many times, over and over. You hear covers and recordings, but nothing holds a candle to when you hear Billie Joe himself sing the song. The sincerity is jarring, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t almost moved to tears hearing the song to close an incredible night.
Looking back on the performance it is, without a doubt, one of the best displays of talent and musicianship I have ever seen. However, I feel that is in part due to the fact that the show was in such a small, intimate venue. Seeing this same show in the Verizon Center would not feel as outstanding or personal.