Green Day at the Phoenix, September 24. Tickets: $40. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN
Right off the top, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong prepared the audience at the band's hotly anticipated Phoenix show last Friday.
"We're gonna play our new album from front to back," he declared.
This, like shouting "Fire!" at a Rhode Island gig or announcing that the bar's run out of booze, is a statement that might destroy an audience's enthusiasm. Not here, though.
Scalpers out front were asking upwards of $150, so most of the mall-punk-friendly, 20-something crowd was just happy to be here. It also helped that the band's new political "punk rock opera" album, American Idiot, is their best in nearly a decade.
"All right, this next fuckin' song is about how fuckin' much I hate fuckin' George W. Bush," spit a fervent Armstrong as the band flew into the Clash-like bounce of Holiday. It seems this sort of political rabble-rousing is becoming more common at rock shows than raised lighters. But, yeah, there was some of that, too.
Less surprising than the sloganeering or the Bic-waving, though, was the alarming increase in the number of musicians onstage. During St. Jimmy, there were seven up there. It was like a Fleetwood Mac concert.
Still, an audience more concerned with rocking out than rocking the vote couldn't connect with some of the album's material. By the time Give Me Novocaine rolled around, things were sagging. Sensing the lull, Armstrong decided to check in: "How are you guys doing?" he asked. "We're about three-quarters of the way through this thing."
The audience groaned.
Thankfully, though, the band got back on track with The Homecoming, a five-part mini-epic that put Mike Dirnt at the mic and featured blasts of confetti, a giant blinking Green Day sign and lots of sax.
Fleetwood? More like the E Street Band.
And they got better during the encore: Longview, Brain Stew and a rousing Minority all set the stage for a show-stopping rendition of Queen's We Are The Champions, complete with a fake moustache. Clearly, they haven't gone totally U2 on us.
If you missed out, don't worry. It's rumoured the band will be back for a bigger show in November. It's unlikely they'll play the whole album again, though. Best to leave that to the dinner theatre production of American Idiot, starring a freeze-dried Evan Dando, due to hit Toronto in the year 2170.