3 Things Artists Can Learn From Green Day

Tuesday night, Green Day kicked off the latest leg of the Revolution Radio Tour at the White River Amphitheatre. This was their first show in Washington since the 21st Century Breakdown tour in 2009. The setlist did feature a significant amount of material from the band’s latest release “Revolution Radio,” as well as most of “American Idiot”. Nonetheless, the setlist contained many gems for old-school Green Day fans, with five songs off Dookie, three from Nimrod, and even 2,000 Light Years from their pre-major label days (“Kerplunk”).

This was my second time seeing Green Day, the first being their show at Key Arena 8 years ago. After this show, there were a few things that stood out as fantastic points of reference for other artists/bands:

Get the Crowd Involved

Sure, this seems like a no-brainer. However, I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve gone to in the last few years where artists/bands simply play through their songs. It’s safe to say that every other song (if not every song) Billie Joe had the crowd clapping in unison and/or screaming “hey ooooooooooh”. Within the first 30 minutes of the show, Green Day had turned the crowd into a community. As far as I could tell, no one was holding back – from jumping up and down to singing along at the top of their lungs.

When it came to the encore, 16,000 people were screaming “hey ooooooooooooh” in unison and pounding the chairs of the amphitheater to get the band back on stage. Sure enough, this was met by the band running out bowing to the crowd and a very excited Billie Joe fist pumping and screaming “YES”!

Repetition in Your Live Routine is Okay, If It’s Genuine

On three separate occasions, Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer/guitarist) brought members on the crowd on stage. The first was to have a young boy to sing the final verse/chorus of Know Your Enemy, the second being a teenager to sing the final verse/chorus of Longview, and the third bringing a birthday-girl on-stage to play guitar for the end of “King for a Day”.

He did the exact same thing in 2009 at Key Arena (except the guy he brought up to play guitar was not celebrating his birthday). Yet, it still worked. The band has found a way to bring the intimacy of a club show to their arena/amphitheater shows.

This also ties into the former point about getting the crowd involved. Having a crowd repeat the same action over-and-over again makes it easy to get involved. This is especially true for people seeing you for the first time, or those who aren’t familiar with you at all. Having a simple phrase repeated across your setlist makes your show accessible to newbies – the point is to keep gaining new fans, right?

Don’t be Afraid to Make a Statement

It’s not a secret that “American Idiot” was Green Day’s response to the Bush Administration back in 2004. Tuesday night Billie Joe made it pretty clear that he’s not terribly content with the current administration either – which may be a deeper reason for the inclusion of so many “American Idiot” tracks throughout the set. He certainly struck a chord with the majority of the crowd (no pun intended…okay kind of…) while avoiding any notion of a man sitting on a pedestal.

Now, I’m certainly not saying to spend your precious minutes on stage voicing your grievances. Further, your statement definitely does not have to be political. The bottom line is people are drawn music that speaks to them on a personal level, and therefore artists who stand for something. This ranges from deep socio-cultural beliefs to how people choose to spend their Friday nights, though the later tends to generate more long-term fans. Crafting your message goes back to how an artist/band brands itself (see my posts on artists becoming a media company and what I’ve learned since Deify’s first record), which can certainly change over time – Green Day being a perfect example: from high-school burnouts/stoners to vocal, socio-political artists.

Highlights from the Show

Billie Joe Armstrong

He may be one of the most playful front-man that I’ve ever witnessed. His ability to get the crowd involved yielded a great night of entertainment.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Dedicated the late Chester Bennington, the song packed an emotional punch. The first half of the song was stripped down to just a guitar and vocals and was delivered beautifully.

The Stage During Revolution Radio and Forever Now

I’m a sucker for great pyro.

Setlist:

  1. Know Your Enemy
  2. Bang Bang
  3. Revolution Radio
  4. Holiday
  5. Letterbomb
  6. Boulevard of Broken Dreams (dedicated to Chester Bennington)
  7. Longview
  8. Youngblood
  9. 2000 Light Years Away
  10. Hitchin’ a Ride
  11. When I Come Around
  12. Welcome to Paradise
  13. Minority
  14. Are We the Waiting
  15. Jimmy
  16. Knowledge (Operation Ivy cover)
  17. Basket Case
  18. She
  19. King for a Day (Saxophone solo w/ snippet of “Careless Whisper”)
  20. Shout/(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction/Hey Jude
  21. Still Breathing
  22. Forever Now

Encore

  1. American Idiot
  2. Jesus of Suburbia
  3. Ordinary World
  4. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)