Live Review: Green Day @ Hyde Park - British Summer Time
Artist: Green Day
Venue: Hyde Park, London, UK
Date: 1st July 2017
Pyro! Flames! A t-shirt gun! Mass sing-a-longs! Chants of “fuck you Donald Trump!” Hey Ho, Let’s Go – it’s Green Day in Hyde Park and it doesn’t get better than this! The Oakland three piece have the tendency of turning the most enormous venues into the most intimate of settings and tonight is no exception; in reality we’re in a massive park in central London surrounded by 60,000 people but Billie Joe Armstrong and co work their socks off to create a spectacle that befits filling a vast space but with the unique feeling you could be crammed into a tiny basement club.
It’s the way in which Billie Joe Armstrong commands the gathered masses in-front of him that creates such an event – throughout the 2 hour-plus show, the consummate frontman has the London crowd eating out of the palm of his hand – instigating constant call and response chants, huge sing-a-longs and general pandemonium. Even before the trio finish their first song ‘Know Your Enemy’ – Armstrong is pleading to Hyde Park for someone to get up on stage to belt out the final verse. A plucky punter is pulled out of the heaving throng to enthusiastically yelp through the dying moments of the track. Classic Green Day song ‘Longview’ will see another lucky fan hauled onto the stage to confidently strut their stuff, whilst rubbing shoulders with their idols. For those Green Day diehards out there, they know when the Californian’s crank out Operation Ivy’s ‘Knowledge’ this is the point where Armstrong will amass a band from the crowd to blast out the old school punk belter – tonight is no different…well, with a twist – we only just about get someone who can play guitar. Upon getting a plucky guitarist on stage, it appears the willing volunteer doesn’t quite know her fretwork, so Armstrong has to drag out another fan to do the business. It’s not quite the same as past fan versions of ‘Knowledge’ but that matters not – blurring the lines between band and fan is where Green Day excel.
Green Day are appearing in Hyde Park as part of series of gigs under the banner of British Summer Time and today’s rosters pays homage to London and UK punk – the kind of music that helped fuel Green Day’s lust to pick up instruments in the first place. Joining the LA band are punk stalwarts The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers and The Stranglers, along with current touring buddies Rancid. It’s not all about those that have helped form Green Day’s sound though – fledgling groups such as The Orwells, Culture Abuse and Armstrong’s son’s outfit SWMRS are also part of Hyde Park line up. The latter two do a sterling job earlier in the afternoon, putting on their own incendiary performances. Culture Abuse straddle the lines between pop-punk and hardcore and pull a good size crowd at 1pm, just as doors open. SWMRS surely have been taking notes from Billie Joe Armstrong’s outfit, as frontman Cole Becker sure knows how to whip up a crowd. At 3pm on a little side stage, there’s crowd surfers, circle pits and lung bursting sing-a-longs – headliners in the making? Time will tell but given this mid-afternoon slot, SWMRS cut the shape of a confident outfit with killer songs to boot.
Given the title of Green Day’s 12th LP ‘Revolution Radio’ and previous records ‘American Idiot’ and ‘21st Century Breakdown’, Armstrong will make a handful of political statements during his band’s headlining show but he also calls for unity too – in amongst the “Fuck You Donald Trump”s, the pintsized punk troubadour urges us all to embrace love and diversity – no matter your skin colour, sexual orientation and religious beliefs, the message is clear and simple – choose love over hate. You would expect a show with pockets of societal and political diatribes to dampen the party spirits but this doesn’t happen – there are guffaws a plenty especially when the band delve into the fancy dress box to adorn silly hats and wigs to sprint through ‘King for a Day’ and a melody of ‘Shout/Always Look on the Bright Side of Life/Teenage Kicks/ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction/Hey Jude”.
With a track listing pushing nearly 30 songs, picking a stand out moment is a tough task but special mentions need to be paid to a blistering version of ‘Basket Case’, ‘Hitchin’ a Ride’s grating stomp, ‘St Jimmy’ spirals like a firecracker hurled down an elevator shaft, ‘American Idiot’ takes on a new resonance with Trump now in office instead of George Bush – swapping one incompetent buffoon for another one – albeit with a bad toupee and a spray tan, and ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ is a fitting end to the first encore. Out of the newbies, ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Bang Bang’ prove to be future classics and the double whammy of ‘Still Breathing’ and ‘Forever Now’ close the main set – propelling them to almost cult status.
With ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ still fizzing in our ears, Armstrong will grace the stage once more, for 3 acoustic renditions of ‘Ordinary World’, ’21 Guns’ and of course the sublime ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’. Although stripped of all the theatrics, bells and whistles of the full band set up – Billie Joe still commands his gathered masses with just a guitar and his voice, just going to show that all the extra facets aren’t smoke and mirrors, when it comes to the power of Green Day’s songs, the barebones are just as alluring as fireworks and water cannons.
They came, they saw, they won hearts and they fuckin’ well conquered – Green Day, London 1st July 2017, kings for a day. Give ’em the keys to the city.
Photography by Naomi Abbs-Williams