“I really believe rock‘n’roll can change the world,” a jubilant Billie Joe Armstrong calls out to an enraptured Hyde Park.
Roll on second day of the British Summer Time Festival – the same stage set up as day one, the same voluminous crowd but one noticeable difference. Replacing pastel-hued linen trousers, silver manes and plastic champagnes flutes were tattoo sleeves, mohawks and six-pint-full lager carriers. Yes, in contrast to the fans of Phil Collins’s soulful vocals, day two was reserved for the punk rockers.
Those assembled were limbered up skanking to the the weird and wonderful gypsy punk of a shirtless, red wine-sloshing Gogol Bordello, complete with frantic fiddle and accordion, peaking on most famous track Start Wearing Purple.
Next up, Rancid. Now if Green Day are considered to be at the most mainstream end of a punk rock spectrum, Rancid would be quite at the other, as was demonstrated by the proportion of bemused-looking Green Day fans stubbornly holding their front of stage spot in anticipation of their heroes for the duration of Rancid’s riotous gig. But those evidently more familiar with the band were given exactly what they were looking for in a furious set of mosh pit-inducing, noisy American punk rock, with tracks dating back to their 90s success, such as Roots Radicals, as well as material like Ghost of a Chance from new album Trouble Maker. They climaxed with Time Bomb and the deliciously rebellious Ruby Soho to which enthusiastic punk rockers chanted “Destination unknown, ruby ruby ruby ruby soho” as beers and limbs went flying in the sunshine.
Finally, what many had been waiting for: Green Day. If it weren’t for an endless set list and numerous references to their old skool days – “Are there any fans from back in the day? Remember 1991…” – you would be forgiven for believing the band on stage were in their youth, so was the seemingly time-preserved adolescent aesthetic and angst-driven energy of the strong-charactered singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, hard-edged bassist Mike Dirnt and lovable blue-haired drummer Tre Cool. Now well into their 40s, their selection of hits from a vast back catalogue of crossover punk rock/pop entertained even their oldest generation of fans, with performances of 1994’s Longview, Basket Case and Welcome to Paradise, 1995’s When I Come Around, 2000’s Minority, 2004 Grammy Award-winning Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 2009’s Know Your Enemy (their chosen gig opener), through to latest album Revolution Radio’s title track and Bang Bang.
So American, sometimes it hurt, a black-haired, coal-lined Armstrong was on prime crowd-loving, politician-bashing, protest-inciting form, with mantras such as: “Repeat after me: No racism. No sexism. No homophobia. No Donald Trump!”. Despite a 60,000-strong audience, the back row stretching some miles from stage front, he had every attendee jumping, shouting and wholly involved in every minute of the mammoth two-and-half hour set, even bringing up ecstatic fans to sing song verses and play his guitar (admittedly pretty badly) before stage jumping back into the crowd. Then, as now, the Green Day brand of punk may not satisfy the grittier purveyors of the genre (a Hey Jude singalong even featured in one montage), but their fighting spirit clearly still has the power to ignite the masses like few other bands can.
Just when we thought it was all over, the rockers encored with massive tracks American Idiot and Jesus of Suburbia. And as if too cruel to leave the audience so hyped up, they were brought back to a soft landing with a stunning acoustic trio of Ordinary World, 21 Guns and 97’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) from Armstrong, which, despite possibly being the most covered song by buskers the world over, still hit the spot, with many Green Day fans no doubt feeling they truly had had the time of their lives.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 2nd July 2017.
For further information and future events visit the Green Day website here.
Watch the video for Revolution Radio here: