When I got the music, I got a place to go*...
…and that place is now always Cleveland in my heart. Many of us have heard the guys of Green Day talk about experiencing the moment and making memories. Last night they gave us enough memories to last a lifetime. They gave us the memories OF a lifetime.
*Lyrics from Radio - written by Tim Armstrong, Billie Joe Armstrong, Matt Freeman
Green Day - Cleveland - 4/16/2015
The night was perfect - in so many ways - but particularly given that Green Day is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was a look back through their history - lots of old friends and family in attendance - people who've been seen faithfully showing up for so many years. And there were people there who made it clear that some old broken ties have started to mend. How sweet to look back on more than 25 years of friendships all wrapped up in the best of music and then have a sort of enactment of the whole thing in one room - for one night.
From the Friends/Family list - people I noticed here and there: Several of Billie's family, including his mom, with a huge smile on her face for the whole night, Bill Schneider standing backstage just like old times, Joey, Adie, Natalie Nesser (at least I'm pretty sure it was her), Larry Livermore, Aaron Cometbus.
Rather than have some random bands open for them, it was definitely friends’ night. I thought Jesse Malin did a really good job starting off with the right vibe. I enjoyed his set and loved that he covered Rock and Roll Radio, especially given how that song always gives me the feeling that Green Day's about to run onto the stage.
It wasn't a complete surprise when Sweet Children was announced as the second opener since the rumors had been flying. But it was a bit surreal to watch and realize what I was witnessing. I'm still saying to myself, "I was at a Sweet Children show!" Soon after they took the stage, John took the mic (first of several times) and said, 'Who are all these people?" and "I know you don't know who I am." Billie introduced him as, "This is John Kiffmeyer … also known as Al Sobrante."
It made sense that John had several talkative episodes, and it seemed to come very naturally to him - not even sure if it was planned or not. That's probably not what I would want to experience if I were seeing Sweet Children on a regular basis at Gilman Street, but for this night, it was just right. It enabled the crowd to get to know John a lot better than we would have if he'd just sat behind the kit and pounded on the drums. He told a few stories of the past and made some amusing comments about such things as trying to find a pay phone to let the venue know they were running late and wondering, "Where are all the pay phones???"
John mentioned that he owed this opportunity to Billie's mom who, when they played for her in her living room, gave him the nod of approval. He also gave a shout out to his nephew, "Green Day's number one fan," who was "seated" in the balcony with family and friends.
Billie wore his Rod's Hickory Pit t-shirt and told the crowd "That was the first place we ever played." John then cautioned, "Don't try to go find it. They pulled it down and built a gas station there." Billie led the crowd in booing that action.
The trio played the following songs:
Honestly, I am still in disbelief. As long as I've been a fan, I've only been able to attend shows for the last several years. I didn't truly expect that I would ever hear some of these songs live. “I Was There” is, of course, the song written by John Kiffmeyer during his brief time with the band. Billie introduced “Road to Acceptance” with "This is the first song I ever wrote about racism." Imagine what a young kid he was when he wrote that song.
Billie had to stop the music more than once because of a bit of rowdiness in the pit. At one point, near the end of Sweet Children, he brought everything to a standstill and stood there for a bit watching what was happening in the pit, center front. He said something about "If someone wants to fight, just stop the music." There's no question it was rough and something was going on, but with the tall guy next to me, I couldn't really see. There was, however, a painting being passed up to the front, and one of the security guards took it and put it down on one of their little benches. Later, it made its way up to Mike, and he commented something like, "this looks like that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band". Anyway, this sort of confusion of fighting, painting stuff went on for a few minutes, and then finally the band finished the last few lines of Sweet Children. It was really pandemonium down there!
At the end of the set, John made a reference to the liner notes from 1039 Smooth and said he could assure us this band would never sign with a major label. Lots of laughter, and Billie Joe said, "Or with IRS." … Pause … Then Billie leaned into the mic and said, "But I WILL be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Exit Sweet Children to wild applause.
I will apologize in advance that I was in such a haze of bliss, my memories are a blur and I'm not articulating them very coherently. Not to mention, too many shows have certainly affected my hearing, and I didn't always get everything that was said. But all this might actually give you a better idea of what the night was like for many of us.
So after a short break that seemed (as always) too long, Green Day took the stage, all the guys looking great (Billie in a tux) and all so happy. They started their show with 99 Revolutions, and the set list went on to amaze and delight in one of those experiences that we look back on later and wonder if it was just a dream.
Early in the set, Billie spoke to the crowd during a break between songs and said, "You know what makes this night so special? It's the closest I'll be to you for a while." Of course, there's a lot of speculation happening about what that means. I'm going to take it that this night was a special night for him and the rest of the band to get really up close and personal with the fans they love before they get caught up in everything that's coming up next. We know the induction ceremony won't be anything like a Green Day concert even though they'll perform. They know we'll be there, but there won't be that direct connection made that we all love so much. I could be wrong. Maybe he’s foreseeing a lengthy time in the studio. Maybe he’s referring to something else that will hugely disappoint us, but I'm going to work on the assumption that's not the case.
The show was full of happiness and intensity, and I felt a strong assurance that the guys were just truly enjoying themselves. Somewhere during the incredible set, Billie said, "I'm having fun!" And it was obvious he was only telling the truth.
Speaking of that set list:
I could not believe I was hearing Private Ale (side note confession: I have trouble with some song titles when the words of the title don't appear in the song. I thought "is your boyfriend there … I think that's Private Ale … the hard concrete - it's got to be Private Ale - but I just couldn't believe I could possibly be hearing Private Ale!).
I think Christie Road was the most beautiful I've ever heard it. It was just slightly slower than usual, and Billie's voice was deep with emotion and evoked that same kind of feeling in me. My son Daniel tells me this was one song he had always wanted to hear because of a conversation we had years ago when I talked to him about my teenage hangout with my friends and how this song brings all those feelings back. He says this was his favorite moment of the show.
Stuart and the Ave!!! I just JUST could not believe it (sounding like a broken record, much?)! I so love that song – everything about it – just to hear Mike play that bass line live would be enough, but wow – the whole song – in this whole show!
Of course, the band obviously played “One for the Razorbacks” just for our friend, Tony Anastasi, who lives in England and couldn’t be here (unlike our other Brit friends, Graham and Sharon).
When Tim Armstrong came out on to the stage, I can't even begin to explain my stunned reaction. I got tears of happiness in my eyes (not for the first or the last time that night). Watching him perform with the guys was one of the highlights of my life so far. I'm not kidding (yes, I know, I've had many highlights, but this was definitely one).
First they did a wonderful version of Knowledge with Billie singing the lead. It was a faster, rowdier version closer to the original than what Green Day usually does with their fans onstage playing. It sounded so great – so perfect for this night. Then Tim introduced the next song. He said that he and Billie wrote this song on Billie's front porch, "it feels like yesterday but it was actually 21 years ago. Time flies.” And then they launched into Radio, one of my favorite songs, as the title of this piece may tell you (and may give you some insight into the reason why, as well).
Here's a great YouTube video of Tim performing Knowledge and Radio with Green Day: WARNING: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this highly addictive, and potentially dangerous to watch in public:
As the song finished, Tim hugged Billie, Mike, Jason W, and Tre as Billie reminded the crowd of his name (haha) and thanked him. But after he was back in the wings and the next song was gearing up. Billie looked back over to that side and said, “Thank you so much, man; thank you so much.”
During the Shout medley, while lying on the floor as we've all come to expect, Billie started thanking family members for his introductions to certain music - I really can't remember who all he thanked for what, but he started with his mom and certainly mentioned Anna and David as well as several others. As far as music went, I heard him mention the Guess Who, the Replacements, Led Zeppelin, and many many more. It was a sweet moment that highlighted the fact that Green Day was doing a show for family and friends, not a commercial, "greatest hits" kind of show.
One of the things I love about Billie's music is the incredible depth of influences that have helped to form his style(s). Musical theater, country, blues, all kinds of genres and artists. And I love the fact that he's always so eager to acknowledge them all, no matter where they came from. I remember listening to my mom's Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), South Pacific, West Side Story and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos albums. Like those, Billie's influences span a spectrum that's just about as broad as it could get, and they can be heard running in threads throughout his songs. That makes this lovely little sidetrack he got on so sweet to hear. Afterwards he said something like, “Where are we?” and then started to sing “Hey Jude”.
It was again so sweet to see Tim Armstrong join the guys on stage for Minority. Some of you know how much that song means to me (happy sigh).
Some random notes:
First of all, a shout out to House of Blues. With a few minor exceptions (and a much more major one that I just heard about this morning – probably the work of one or two people, though), they handled the whole process of agitated, anxious fans really well and got us started off right for a once-in-a-lifetime night.
I absolutely adored the House of Blues staff member with the mohawk who worked security and sang along with every song, even the oldest rarities - and every time we made eye contact we sang along together for a few bars with big smiles on our faces. You can see him in the Tim Armstrong video I linked above. I’m sure he was enjoying himself just as much as we were.
Arturo. What can I say? My favorite security guy ever!
Despite the pre-sale fiasco, I believe the venue was packed with a huge number of true, hard-core Green Day fans. Watching so many folks singing along to every song was such a joy. Felt like family. And it felt like most of the right people were there.
This show was such an amazing dream-come-true kind of experience. I think it happened something like this: Green Day wanted to do a show – not just three songs at an event where their fans couldn’t be on the barricade. Looking back on their history, they wanted to acknowledge and re-live it and thought – what better way than at a show? I also like to think that they wanted to do it for us, the fans who love them enough to travel around the world – like Cheryl S who came from Australia – like so many others who were there that night (and on so many other nights in the past) from around the country and around the world. I have a sneaking suspicion that they love us as much as we love them.
Congratulations to our boys on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Guess I’d better go start getting ready for that ceremony now.
-- Written by J'net (@HeadCrackinLife)
View more photos from this event: