There are some things you think you lose and you don’t know why you lose them. When I was a kid I used to run around the living room blasting music: physical reaction to a song I didn’t know how to relate to in any better way. Just run, just move.
There’s something in the pounding riff, the lyrics pored over for ages, trading emails back and forth with a friend to interpret them, words you yelled along with because you didn’t know how to sing. Maybe these songs expressed something you didn’t understand about yourself.
It’s been 10 years since the last time I ran around my house blaring “Jesus of Suburbia” and we’re driving for hours through tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm announcements. I’m in the car with Elizabeth, the same friend I ran and traded emails with, to see Green Day in Raleigh.
After lightning passes and the venue doors are finally opened, I run to our spot on the lawn as the last lines of “Bohemian Rhapsody” play over the loudspeakers. The Green Day bunny dances to “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and Tré Cool, Mike Dirnt, and Billie Joe Armstrong walk out. They’re far away, blurred by rain, but instantly recognizable as themselves. Their posture and energy translates to the very edge of the crowd.
The set consists of an assortment of greatest hits, with plenty of Revolution Radio sprinkled in for good measure. The new songs work well live: they’re tight and to the point, with recognizable riffs and sing-along choruses. They accentuate the setlist and the crowd reacts enthusiastically to their beats, but not as strongly as they do to “Welcome to Paradise” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
There are those moments that have been staples of Green Day concerts for over a decade: “Holiday” has its blackout and “King For a Day” goes into “Shout” with a take on “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” These moves are familiar, like a magic trick you’ve seen a hundred times but are always surprised by. Billie Joe, Tré, and Mike are different people now than when these moments were immortalized in Bullet in a Bible. So am I, and so is Elizabeth. But maybe some things don’t change.
When “Minority” plays, I recognize the energy and physicality of the music. I thought I’d lost that need to sing along to every word, to jump up and down, a release of energy that comes with not caring what other people think of your reaction to a song.
The lawn is jumping up and down, too, slapping the damp grass with their feet. A girl in front of us goes so hard during the first three songs that she tumbles backwards, but keeps her balance for the rest of the show, undeterred from dancing.
Before playing Operation Ivy staple “Knowledge,” Billie asks if someone can play guitar. An 11-year-old kid comes up, the same age I was when I found Green Day. He asks if his brother can come up and play drums. A teenager comes up to play bass, and a silver-haired woman standing next to us leans over to us and says, “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
People scream along to “She” as loudly as “American Idiot,” despite a decade in between the songs’ releases. The reaction to Green Day seems to be all-or-nothing, and nothing is not an option. In a group of people this large I unexpectedly feel individual. I’m sharing this moment with Elizabeth as I cup my face in my hands and cry “OH MY GOD” at the opening chords to “Letterbomb.” I’m part of a narrative built up over a history of listening to this band, the same moment thousands of other people are experiencing.