Saturday, November 19, 2011

Green Day - Awesome As Fuck

Rarely does an album title ever perfectly capture how well an album truly is and Green Day’s latest album Awesome As F**k (the band’s fifth live album) does just that. Even as their song “Fashion Victim” (from their album Warning) says, “What’s in a name?” Green Day knows how to make an awesome album with a killer title. Ever since I could remember I have always been a huge fan of Green Day. Strike that. Since 1994, when I first heard Dookie, I have been a huge Green Day fan. For the past decade I have received the strangest looks from people when I proclaim this. Usually, there is some kind of remark along the lines like “How could you support those ‘Anti-Americans’?” or “Why would you support a band that ‘sold out’?” To those naysayers I simply say, “I will always remain a faithful fan through thick and thin because I truly love Green Day. Besides how many bands do you know can say they have made two iconic albums in two different centuries (Dookie and American Idiot)?”

Since my introduction to following bands/music I have noticed an unusual trend amongst music fans or rather I have actually paid attention for the first time. Most individuals are “casual music fans” and only listen to bands that are “hot at the moment.” Only the true and diehard fans follow a band when they appear/disappear from the limelight and never give up on them. I can honestly trace back the moment when I first heard Green Day. It was in Mrs. Jones’ third grade class at Grace Brethren Elementary School and my classmate Chad introduced me to the awesomeness that is Green Day. Thank you Chad, wherever you are.

Over the years I have loved discussing my affection and admiration for Green Day. While at concerts I will usually interact with other fans discussing their past albums, side projects (such as the Foxboro Hot Tubes) and describe how we were first introduced to the band. After a while I noticed a pattern amongst the “older fans,” who were  introduced to Green Day prior to American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, which I like to call the Dookie situation. The reason I call it the Dookie situation is because most diehard Green Day fans categorize people into two categories: 1) Fans of Green Day before Dookie and 2) Fans of Green Day after Dookie. Basically, their argument is always “Were you a fan before or after they found mainstream success?” My counterargument has and will always be, “I discovered Green Day because of that album. What’s wrong with that?” That’s usually fine, but if they have an attitude I add, “Excuse me if I was only in the third grade when it came out and weren’t able to check them out in the East Bay in the early 1990s.” Luckily, that has rarely happened.

Still, my passion runs deep for Green Day. As a matter of fact I plan on attending American Idiot, their musical once it opens in Los Angeles Spring 2012 with some fellow diehard Green Day fans. When Rock Band released the Green Day videogame I immediately marked my calendar and rushed out and bought it the morning of its release. Needless to say I’m a fan regardless how old I get.

Awesome As F**k is what a live album should be: fun, fresh and fantastic. As the title even alludes to its f**king awesome and the album immediately drops you into that concert environment. The last two times I saw Green Day was during the first leg of the 21st Century Breakdown tour with their final show at The Forum and during “New Years” at L.A. Live near the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Both times, they sounded fantastic, but the “New Years” gig was even more amazing. At that show, they primarily played their old stuff from Kerplunk, Insomniac, 39/Smooth and a handful of “current songs” from American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown (maybe three or so during a 90 minute set). The raw energy they infused the audience with at each show created two great memories for this Green Day fan.

That same energy can be seen in their latest effort Awesome As F**k. The album kicks off with “21st Century Breakdown,” the titular track from their platinum selling studio album, and for the first few seconds all you hear and feel is the crowd going wild. There is nothing more exhilarating than an audience picking up your intensity and getting your blood pumping. Immediately I was brought back into that environment as though I was at the concert. That’s when you know a live album is great- it brings you into the concert.

The intensity continues to build throughout the track and even more enthusiasm erupts when the explosions go off before Billie Joe Armstrong starts singing. Once Armstrong belts out the lyrics, it’s nonstop fun. The very first time I listened to this album I had goosebumps all over my body. Around the 2:20 mark, you hear Tre Cool’s awesome drumming in the background as Armstrong riles up the crowd before the crowd’s intensity blows up. Then a minute later all hell breaks loose and the energy goes up a whole another notch. That’s what a great band does- pumps up its crowd’s energy to the max and then some.

Where “21st Century Breakdown” leaves off “Know Your Enemy” picks up. These first two tracks highlight the raw energy of Green Day fans much like the KISS Army on the KISS album Alive! and Cheap Trick’s Cheap Trick at Budokan. This irresistible live track makes you want to clap and scream along with as though you were there.

Much like their last album, “East Jesus Nowhere” is my favorite track on Awesome As F**k. Armstrong illustrates what a fun, fantastic frontman he truly is by getting the entire crowd involved with repeating the intro. Once the guitars and drums kick in, “East Jesus Nowhere” highlights how talented Green Day is with creating catchy, energetic and effective songs filled with messages.

With lyrics like, “A fire burns today/ Of blasphemy and genocide/The sirens of decay/Will infiltrate the faith fanatics” it’s no surprise Green Day has been successful for over 20 years. Still, my favorite part of the song is when the audience sings the part, “Don't test me (Pause)/ Second guess me (Pause) /Protest me” by themselves. Overall, a fantastic live version worth checking out.

The song smoothly transitions to one of the most popular and enduring songs from American Idiot, “Holiday.” It’s so flawless, much like a concert, that for a few seconds you forget it’s a whole new song. For almost the past decade, this politically-charged song has inspired, infuriated and increased awareness for many people around the world. Most people tend to forget the only musicians who openly condemned and criticized President George W. Bush’s actions with the War in Iraq from the very beginning were Green Day and the Dixie Chicks. This song still sounds fresh and effective almost a decade later. Hearing the audience shout back “Amen” is intense and inspiring, mostly due to Dublin’s unbelievable energy. Every time I hear this song I can’t help, but get excited. This live track just adds to my enjoyment even more, especially when the crowd sings along to “Zieg Heil to the President Gasman/Bombs away is your punishment/Pulverize the Eiffel Towers/Who criticize your government.”

The more relaxed “¡Viva La Gloria!” follows and shows the softer side of Green Day for a few tender moments before blasting off to the hard sound we have been accustomed to for their entire career. Much like their previous live album Bullet in a Bible, Green Day’s Awesome As F**k primarily focuses on songs from the previous album (21st Century Breakdown features six songs), but do include some awesome tracks from their back catalog.

At the tail end of “¡Viva La Gloria!” around 4:03, Billie Joe Armstrong announces to a Dallas crowd, “We are going to play a brand new song,” which the crowd rejoices to before Armstrong adds, “It ain’t that brand new.” The song transitions unnoticeably (from Dallas to Phoenix) with “Cigarettes and Valentines” officially beginning with Armstrong saying, “This song is called ‘Cigarettes and Valentines.’ Let’s Go!” Surprisingly, there is a good amount of fans who already know some of the lyrics and it makes you wonder what could have been?

For those unfamiliar with what I am getting at, let me give you some insight into Green Day history. Green Day was following up their album Warning with an album called Cigarettes and Valentines in 2003. Near the end of their sessions, the master recordings for the twentysomething tracks were stolen and the band was left with two options:  rerecord everything or start from scratch. Green Day chose the latter and history was made. The band recorded the rock opera American Idiot and created one of the most iconic albums thus far in the 21st Century. Even my Baby Boomer parents know who Green Day is because of American Idiot. I heard “Cigarettes and Valentines” for the very first time because of this live album and it’s exactly what I want in a Green Day song.

The classic Dookie song, “Burnout” has become a staple at shows and you can see why. Everyone from Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, Mike Dirt, the rest of the touring band (Jason White, Jason Freese, Jeff Matika) and the crowd’s excitement fuels the intensity of an already splendid song. Even when you see Green Day live, it’s nice they enthusiastically still play their classic songs that gained them national exposure. They follow up with an oldie from their debut album 39/Smooth, “Going to Pasalacqua.”  Like most live albums, this one keeps giving with another rare track, “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)," from the movie soundtrack Angus and besides the aforementioned soundtrack was only featured on the greatest hits album International Superhits! These gems supplement this stellar album, which proves even superstars like Green Day aren’t afraid to play their back catalog and still love playing their classics.

“You guys want to hear some more old shit or what?” Billie Joe Armstrong says before opening the track “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” and adds after strumming a few notes, “This song is my favorite song from Kerplunk by the way.” Armstrong’s energy and enthusiasm pumps me up every time I listen to this part of the album. Much like attending one of their shows, Green Day keeps you entertained and somehow builds upon your excitement with each subsequent song. The album Insomniac is finally represented with “Geek Stink Breath” and like the previous five songs, a classic song will always be great no matter what.

Then it really gets crazy with “When I Come Around.” Besides “Basket Case” (my all time favorite Green Day song), “When I Come Around” is definitely in my top three songs from Green Day. Once again, they deliver another amazing live version and you can’t help, but sing along. However, my only complaint about this entire album is the Berlin audience’s lack of enthusiasm and knowledge of the lyrics to this Green Day classic. At times, you can’t even hear them sing the lyrics, which is disappointing.

Luckily, Brisbane’s audience picks up the pieces and gives great enthusiasm for “She.” Three of Green Day’s most popular recent songs “21 Guns,” “American Idiot,” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” follow. Like everything preceding these tracks, Green Day remains full of fun and energy after playing these songs essentially nonstop for the past seven years. Hearing the entire audience sing the opening chorus, “Don't want to be an American Idiot/Don't want a nation under the new media/And can you hear the sound of hysteria?/The subliminal mind fuck America” is beyond amazing. It honestly doesn’t get any better than that.

The standard edition of the album closes with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which feels like the perfect bookend to Awesome As F**k. As the lyrics suggest I “had the time of my life” enjoying this album. If that’s not enough, the album includes a DVD with concert footage from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Talk about an extra hour of awesomeness! Awesome As F**k is easily one of my favorite albums of the year and in my opinion the best live album of 2011! I wish more albums were filled with so many goodies.


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