Author’s Note: Apologies for the spelling/grammar. I wrote this very fast and wanted to get it all down. Also, sorry for the crappy iphone pictures – it’s all I had!
Green Day – London, England 01/06/2013
There’s something about London. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is, but whenever I get off a train/bus/flying carpet and set foot in that city I can’t help but feel excited, or full of anticipation, or both. Something is always happening in London and this weekend just gone was no exception. One thing I always love when I’m travelling in for a gig is the idea that across the country (and this case world) fans are travelling in for the same reason. There’s an awesome sense of unity before any of us have even met. If I see someone hanging out in a Green Day shirt when I know there’s a show going on, I can’t help but smile. We are all connected by the love of this band and that is pretty damn epic.
Anyway, I arrived in London at about midday and had to hang around the wonderful Euston station (sarcasm) for about forty minutes waiting for my friends to show up. We then headed out to Belsize Park where we were staying to check in. It was a beautiful day so we headed back into central London. I, being a complete nerd, decided I wanted to drag them along to the British Library. I’d heard there were some pretty cool exhibitions on and I wanted to go and check them out. Once inside I found that you had to pay to get into the Propaganda in the 21st century one (which would have been interesting), but if you wandered a bit further up there was another showcasing some of the documents and manuscripts they had. Oh god, I was like a kid in a candy shop – I’m a history geek at the best of times – and they had real manuscripts that were over a thousand years old! It’s strange to try and explain it but these bits of paper have such life about them, they’re not just a faceless textbook or something like that, someone really wrote that, so long ago. Thoughts, hopes and dreams go into those works (a thousand year old copy of Beowulf was there) and that evidence of human expression and passion is something I just get so excited about. Also original letters written by Elizabeth I?!?!?! Geek out over – probably.
After we’d finished in the library we headed out on the tube to check out the stadium and to see who was there. I was really nervous that there was going to be hundreds of people there already, but when we showed up it was pretty empty. I headed around to F gate on the North bank to see who was there and the first person I saw was Lindsay. I think I scared her a bit because I ran up to her screaming “LINNNNNDDDDDSSAAAAAAAAAYYYYY”. It was a bit of a Canadian Invasion going on at F because Val and Nahaleh (sorry if I spelt it wrong!) were there too. It was so nice to meet them – finally! I’ve been talking to Val and Lindsay on Skype for about two years now and to finally meet up was so lovely. Lone was also there, and I still have not found out her name. I was going to get it out of Tony but I didn’t managed to catch him at the show. Some other GDC Pizza Family were there too – Fran, Tamsin, Paul, Becky and Sophie (I’m so sorry if I forgot you – I am an absolute PLEB with names). As we were all hanging out the band began to sound check – that was what made it so real, so immediate. Hearing Billie Joe’s voice ringing out over the edge of the stadium and spilling down to us on the outside. The GDC pizza family headed to the top of North Bank where the sound was incredible so we could all have a good listen. It was a warm evening and I couldn’t really think of anything else I would rather be doing in that moment. They played ‘Waiting’ four times in the sound check so we were pretty damn sure they were going to play it during the show, they also played a snippet of ‘Missing You’, ‘J.A.R’ (which we didn’t get – regardless of what NME says) and ’99 Revolutions’. It was wonderful to hear them checking because whilst other bands come on, strum a few chords, bash the drum a few times etc. Green Day actually almost play a show! They were at it for a good forty-five minutes, giving us a cool opportunity to have a listen.
(Emirates Stadium – North Bank)
I then left the stadium ground at about 7pm and we went tube hopping for a bit, in attempt to find the O2 Islington Academy. I was going to go to the Green Date gig but then as I got to Islington a wave of tiredness/grumpiness hit me and I didn’t think I would be much fun so I pulled out and headed back to the hotel to crash out for the night. We (myself and two friends (Jess and Morgan)) weren’t camping, but we had plans to be there nice and early.
One thing that I will always love/hate about Green Day gig days is setting my alarm the night before, for some ridiculously early time, and having it tell me you have “4 hours and 3 minutes until alarm…” – always a great feeling. Anyway, we got up at 5am and caught the first tube up to Arsenal. I felt so panicked as Morgan and I walked along to Clock (Cock from now on) End (Jess had split from us because she was queuing at North Bank D). I was genuinely imagining queues upon queues of people and us being somewhere near the back. I was not having a good time at that moment. Anyway, we crossed over the bridge to K and saw that there were about ten people there. I spotted the lovely Agija and sneakily skipped passed about four people. They didn’t seem to mind, however, it just being two of us, and also the fact we were pretty damn early. I was also queuing opposite an uncanny Billie-alike called Rob (so uncanny that he drew quite a lot of stares all day). Everyone I was with was really nice.
After establishing myself at K gate and introducing myself to people around, I went on a reccy to F gate to see how everyone was holding up after a night sleeping rough. Well at least everyone was alive! They all looked pretty sleepy to be honest, some of them were half-talkative, some of them totally non responsive. One of the non-responsive ones was Svän, who upon being poked repeatedly by Ceri, just mumbled something entirely incoherent and rolled over with a grumpy noise. I decided to head back later when everyone was feeling a little bit more awake, and more likely to want conversation. As I headed back I heard rumours going around of wristbands being handed out to those who had camped and to those who’d got to the stadium super early. At first I thought this might just be idle gossip (music fans really do love to speculate!) but lo and behold at about 9.15 a guy came around and asked to see our tickets before presenting us with a bright green wristband with the words ‘FRONT PIT’ on it. Turns out that these were pretty useless when push came to shove but they’re a cool souvenir to have anyway.
(Green Day wristbands)
I chilled with the guys at K for a while after that, learning how to say Agija’s name properly amongst other things. I always thought that it was A-GEE(as in Gee whizz!)-A, but it turns out that it’s A-geeeee (as in gear)-a. Just in case you didn’t know! Whilst we were chilling out I spotted Iolanda making the rounds and we had a quick chat – it was her birthday yesterday – pretty damn cool birthday present! At about 10.15, knowing I was going to be there for quite a while yet I headed to the nearest McDonalds (staple gig food!) and bought a burger (what else?!). I felt pretty guilty because I’d eaten a burger two days in a row, but I assuaged my guilt by imagining the amount of calories I was going to burn whilst down in the pit later that day. I then realised that there was no way in hell that my phone was going to last until the end of the day (when it would probably be necessary), so Ceri kindly leant me her phone charger and I went to hang out in the toliets (only place with plugs) to charge up. Delightful place, but made so much more wonderful by the arrival of Tasha (<3) who hung out with me whilst my phone charged. I love you Tasha – just so you know. As I stood there like I lemon I realised that I’d left my ticket in my bag at the gate – I couldn’t believe I’d been such an idiot to let it out of my sight – and sprinted back to K to pick it up. I literally did a forward roll over the barrier to pick it up. Rob wondered aloud why I was so worried about it – I told him it was because Morgan might sell it whilst I wasn’t looking.
For the next four hours I met more and more people from GDC which was so lovely. I met Maria’s mum in the toliets (I hope she said hi to you Maria – I asked her too!), Mary came over with Svän at one point, and at about 3pm Tom decided he was going to show up, so we got to catch up briefly. There was a few GDCers who were there who I didn’t get to chill with (Liam and Holly!) but I’ve met both of you before so… . We took some nice photos together, apologies that mine are crappy iPhone quality but I didn’t want to bring my big camera! No way I was lugging that into the gig. Lone came back at about 3pm (having been with the guys at F most of the time) I started trying to knock her Americanisms out of her (even though she’s American) – it’s still ‘sweets’, ‘rubbish’ and ‘pavement’ ya know!
(Svän + I)
Anyway, at about quarter to four people started to get a bit restless, the crowds had expanded dramatically, and people began to nervously guard their patch of concrete as if were made of gold. At about 4pm wardens appeared in front of all the turnstiles – I prayed they were all going to be opened in good time, and also at the same time. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about this, mine was opened at the same time as everyone else, but the poor people who were at F got screwed over a bit (they were opened about 2/3 minutes late)! L
All I remember about getting in was literally ditching everyone, running into the stadium and screaming at some people who were jogging down the steps to move to the right so that I could get passed. I spotted Agija on the barrier as I ran into the Golden Circle but I sprinted past her and to the centre. I ended up one deep on the left (as you look at the stage) side of the mini-catwalk. So basically in the middle, but not quite – the middle was about two people across from me. I was behind two Polish girls who were both pretty nice, and also had a lovely gap between their heads which (when the time came) I had a perfect view of Billie Joe through.
There was about a fifty-minute wait between getting in and All Time Low taking to the stage. I find that that’s always the worst part about a big gig – you’ve waited hours to get in and then once you’re there you’ve got to wait some more. I got friendly with some of the people around me, turns out there were three girls from Yorkshire (best county!) right next to me, so I was chatting to them for a while. And then All Time Low came on. And the squishing started. Everybody surged forward and started to push/pull/tug/swerve – all great fun of course (*eye roll*). I expect it when you’re down front and centre but even then it doesn’t make it hugely pleasant.
All Time Low were quite good. They played a mixture of new stuff and some of their older hits, most notably ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’, ‘Weightless’ and ‘Reckless And The Brave’. They seemed to be having fun but it was a tough crowd for them. There was a girl just behind me who took it upon herself for the entire set to stand there and scream “OFF, OFF, OFF” or “ALL TIME BLOW” etc. I nearly turned around and poked her in the eyes. I had this debate with some people a few days ago – you might not like a band, but you can at least respect what they’re trying to do. You’re not here to see them, the people you want to see won’t be far behind, at least have the common decency to be polite. The one thing that did get old with All Time Low’s set was the dick jokes. I don’t know, I just didn’t find them particularly funny and I don’t think it comes across very well in a stadium setting. They put forward a valiant effort, but I don’t think it had much effect except on those who were in the Golden Circle. Better luck next time boys.
After All Time Low had finished up we had about a half an hour wait before the Kaiser Chiefs took to the stage. Some people have commented that this seems like a bit of an odd backing for Green Day but I disagree. I think they’re a genuinely good rock band and they know how to work a crowd – why shouldn’t they be there? It did seem a bit like the lead singer show but they were good nonetheless. Of course they got the largest at times crowd response when they played their hits; ‘I Predict A Riot’, ‘Ruby’ and ‘The Angry Mob’ were the big crowd movers. At one point the lead singer decided it would be a good idea to climb the light stack at the corner of the stage – felt a bit sorry for his manager/security at that point who was underneath and looked scared to death! The dude did go pretty high and I genuinely thought he was going to fall. He didn’t, thankfully, and they ended their section on a high.
Once the Kaiser Chiefs had disappeared the tension really started to rise. The crushing down the front got even more intense (and didn’t let up all evening – thankfully I could always breathe – but I now have several bruises because from the chest down I could barely move). I think one of the defining moments before Green Day comes on is when the black curtain drops and Tre’s drum kit is revealed – people get pretty damn excited at that point. Anyway, after watching several familiar techies set up the stage and a bit more hanging around, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen began to play out over the PA system. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment in that everyone quickly caught on and began to sing. It gave me goosebumps to hear 75,000 people singing those immortal words. At the moment (if I’d ever doubted it!) I knew it was going to be incredible gig. Most of the English fans hadn’t seen Green Day since 2010 and they were ready to see their favourite band again! After that song had come to a close the ever-recognisable ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ started and the Drunk Bunny stumbled onto stage to a rapturous reception – only thing though; where were his beers?! He stumbled around a bit, came down briefly onto the tiny platform in front of us, and then headed off to rapturous applause. The crowd drew breath. They knew that the moment was here, the planning, the friendships, the queuing, the lyrics learning, the blood/sweat/tears had all come down to this point. ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ began to play (actually the Madagascar 2 Soundtrack FYI) and after about a minute, and to the sound of the crowd screaming at the decibel count of an airport runway, Tré Cool bounded onto stage. With green hair. Yup, a lovely deep emerald green graced the top of our favourite drummers head. Mike swiftly followed him over on stage right – I didn’t get much Mike action last night, me being to the left a bit – have to rectify that next time! I spotted Billie Joe over by the tech stand picking up his guitar, he smiled at his techie before walking calmly onto stage, an enormous grin on his face.
And that grin stayed all night. I think that was one of the things that made last night so fucking epic – Green Day looked as if they were having the time of their lives (pun firmly intended). And that reflected – the crowd knew they were happy, so the crowd got happier at the thought… there was an incredible energy in that space last night. They opened with ’99 Revolutions’, quickly followed by ‘Know Your Enemy’; with Billie Joe getting a fan dressed in a Union Jack morph suit up to help him finish the song off. After that we got ‘Stay The Night’ which I know used to be Tom’s favourite trilogy song, I forgot to ask him whether it still is (is it?). During this song Billie Joe exclaimed that they were “going to play all night”, as much as I wished this were true most of the fans there knew there was a hard curfew for 10.30pm; Billie’s such a liar! Another thing he said was that he loved summer because there was “more light” – I was looking at Jason Freese at this point who just laughed at the total randomness of that statement. Billie Joe began his crowd control at about this point – the number of ‘Hey-ho’s’ you get at a GD show are uncountable. It must be an utterly intoxicating feeling to literally be able to twitch your hand and have 75,000 people at your total command. He seemed to be enjoying it!
After that we had ‘Stop When The Red Lights Flash’ followed by ‘Letterbomb’. I was so glad we got the latter of those – I adore this song and it was fantastic to hear it live once again. I noticed that Billie’s stopped screaming “WAKE UP!” in the bridge (a Rebecca Naomi Jones addition), but it was fantastic nonetheless. Then we had ‘Oh Love’, the first single off the trilogy albums – I actually managed to get some (very shitty!) pictures during this song. It was the only time I took pictures because I wanted to be totally in the moment at all other times. I know that at Wembley I spent quite a lot of the gig staring through my camera lense and I didn’t want to do that again – someone with a much calmer/better position than me will have got some much cooler photos than I would’ve managed.
(Blurry iPhone photo 1)
(Blurry iPhone photo 2)
After ‘Oh Love’ we had the immortal ‘Holiday/Boulevard of Broken Dreams’. Billie opened the former by screaming the well known words ‘VIVA LA REVOLUTION’ before bursting into the song with the energy of a thousand fireworks. One thing I was annoyed at myself for, however, was that somehow I missed the ‘Amen!’ of ‘can I get another Amen?’ – how on earth I missed this I have absolutely no idea. I figuratively kicked myself for a good five minutes after that. ‘Boulevard’ was as epic as it normally is, and during it Billie Joe got a little kid up with a homemade ‘Green Day Rocks’ sign. It was unbelievable cute – the kid just stood there with an entirely straight face for the whole song… at the end Billie laughed, gave him a hug and sent him off. It was just ‘awwww!’…
Following that we had ‘Stray Heart’, ‘Nice Guys Finish Last’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Missing You’. Apparently last night was the first time the latter has been played live by the full band. Unfortunately I hadn’t revised those lyrics so I ended up gurning along for most of it, but the chorus was fairly easy to pick up! Then as the sky began to darken into dusk, Green Day started to dig deep, moving back almost twenty years to pull out the epic ‘Burnout’ and ‘Sassafras Roots’. It was so cool that they played the latter song – I’ve never heard it live before and it was awesome to get it, seeing as it’s one of my favourites off Dookie (would’ve been nice to get ‘Pulling Teeth’ as well but oh well!). Then we got ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ – a particularly apt song for Green Day once again I feel. Also ‘1,2,1,2,3,4!’… After those we got ‘Longview’ (which a fan sang the final verse of) and the ever popular ‘Welcome to Paradise’. Then they did something I didn’t expect; they covered Operation Ivy’s ‘Knowledge’ – I knew they used to do that in the past, but I didn’t expect them to do it last night. Billie Joe got a female fan up on stage to play the guitar for the song, and thankfully she could play it. I always get nervous when they get people up to do something that actually requires talent/lyric-knowing. It would be so cringy if someone got up and was just being a dick, not really knowing anything.
After that we got ‘St. Jimmy’ – I was a little annoyed that we didn’t get serenaded by ‘Are We The Waiting’ first, seeing as that’s my favourite song, but Billie Joe’s firecracker energy during Jimmy more than made up for it. Following that we got more songs from Dookie; ‘When I Come Around’, ‘Basket Case’ and ‘She’. The singalongs to all of these were so epic and it was at this point that I started losing my voice and coughing a lot (I found valiantly on however! I WILL SHOUT ALL NIGHT!). Then there was a very brief lull in energy as the guys hurried off stage, before coming back wearing stupid hats/outfits – it was time for ‘KING FOR A DAAAAAAAAY!!’ I know that some people have scorned Green Day for their continued playing of this song, but boo sucks to them – I love it! I don’t find it gimmicky at all, it’s just a lot of fun. During the Shout Medley that always follows that song, the drunk bunny came back and decided to lie on top of Billie whilst he was lying on the stage. Billie found this funny, however, and just laughed as the bunny laid its head on his arse.
Following that general madness and mayhem we got ‘X-Kid’ and ‘Minority’. These two closed off the main show, and what a way to close it – with the crowd knowing every single word to the incredible ‘Minority’ – shouting it back word for word. The band disappeared from stage for about three minutes after that before coming back out for the encore that consisted of ‘American Idiot’, ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ and ‘Brutal Love’. During AI Billie Joe did try, very briefly, to start a wall of death – but the crowd was just so tightly packed that there was absolutely no way he was going to manage to separate us. I was so glad they played JoS – it’s always wonderful when they play that in the encore, you know the shows nearly ending, but hey ho, here’s a nine minute song for you guys! It was incredible. Due to the fact that I’d missed the “Amen!” in ‘Holiday’, I was making doubly sure that I was concentrating for the “JESUS OF SUBURBIA!” roar during this song – no way I was missing that as well! I love the way that song moves through the sections – IMHO it’s Green Day’s best song, it’s so bloody fantastic and it stirs so many emotions in me that… gah!
And then there was ‘Brutal Love’ – a heart-wrenchingly emotional song that had me in tears. I have never cried at a gig before but that one had me shed a tear or two. It was just incredibly beautiful, a wonderful cherry on top of the madness, and the cuddle after the orgasmic show we had all just experienced. I looked briefly around and could see all the lighters and mobiles in the air, creating a sea of lights around the stadium – the view from the stage must have been intoxicatingly beautiful. To me, an ending like that was a show of perfect unity – we might all come from different homes, different places, be different genders and races etc. but we were all there for the same reason. The Greatest Show On Earth.
And then it ended. And the crowd breathed out. People moved away, picking up odd souvenirs as they went, trying to piece their minds around what they’d just seen. Green Day had once again proved, without pyro, excessive lights, or gimmicks as to why they are the best live band on the planet. It is so difficult to describe how fantastic they are without seeing it with your own eyes, but last night they blew me away.
Here at the end of all things (J), I would just like to say a huge thank you and I love you to the GDCfamily. I miss you guys already and I think you’re all wonderful people. I hope we have a 1001 more opportunities to meet because I feel that the few hours we had were nowhere near enough. The Green Day gig experiences I’ve had in the past twelve months wouldn’t be a scratch on what they have been without you guys. Green Day bring the music, you guys bring the magic. Thank you! Beyond hugs and kisses.
And now we go back to our own lives. We possibly feel sad that it’s over – but just remember, we were there. We saw it. We felt it. We were a part of it, and we have that memory that no one else can take away from us.
Until next time guys,