Anyone announcing a tour in the last couple of years must have felt like Axl Rose talking about Chinese Democracy (2008). Announcements, delays, reworked lineups and serious disappointment have all been par for the course in recent times. One such tour affected by this was the Hella Mega Tour featuring rock heavyweights GREEN DAY, FALL OUT BOY, and WEEZER, which was originally announced in 2019.
Three years and a global pandemic since that initial announcement and the UK leg of the tour finally kicked off at London Stadium. It’s been a long time coming and there is a very palpable buzz in the air.
WEEZER (7) are tasked with being the first of the three on stage. Anticipating a WEEZER live show is often a tricky endeavor, as Rivers Cuomo could very literally write a brand new album overnight, then play the whole thing, such is his want. They largely play it safe over the course of their hour set, rolling out a number of hits. Opening with Hash Pipe, Beverly Hills and My Name Is Jonas was a very clever move. A fun cover of METALLICA‘s Enter Sandman gets everyone on their feet. While the set does dip a little in the middle due to some newer material the crowd are not that familiar with, it’s ultimately saved by a gorgeous rendition of Island In The Sun, their cover of TOTO‘s Africa and the obvious set closer Buddy Holly. WEEZER were an interesting addition to the bill. They don’t quite fit in with the other bands, but their mark on pop culture and alternative music is undeniable. It’s a shame they don’t rise to the occasion. They play a set that is functional and efficient, but feels more like a college band on their first big tour than one of the main selling points on a stadium tour.
It is over to FALL OUT BOY (8) to raise the energy levels and properly get the party started. A recorded intro from actor Ron Livingstone, doing his best Rod Serling impression, talks us through the narrative that will run on the screens behind the band. As the strings for The Phoenix hit, the crowd erupts and they are greeted with a hero’s welcome. FALL OUT BOY are not here to mess about, they get the blood pumping from the get go before diving head first into Sugar, We’re Going Down second song in, and suddenly London Stadium has become a giant dance party. There is a touch of Midas to tonight’s set as they bombard the audience with nothing but solid gold hits. Pete Wentz pays homage to Axl Rose with his attire, and has the time of his life shooting fireballs from his bass. Not one to be outdone, Patrick Stump sets fire to his piano during a soulful Save Rock & Roll. In fact, there is so much pyro packed into their set it would make the Human Torch feel self conscious. The evening isn’t all about fire, it’s about celebration. One look around the venue and we saw nothing but arms aloft and people in full voice with mile wide smiles.
It also helps that FALL OUT BOY have more bangers than a well stocked butchers and deliver them in spades. A momentary halt to proceedings to check on an incident does ring home the importance of crowd safety, but does very little to slow the momentum of the show. On any given day and on any other bill, FALL OUT BOY would have headlined. They looked every inch the stars they have become and had the audience eating out the palms of their hands, but the night belonged to one band and one band only.
It’s seems appropriate that one of GREEN DAY‘s (10) intro songs is Bohemian Rhapsody. If FALL OUT BOY were greeted like heroes, the reception GREEN DAY are met with felt like QUEEN coming on at Live Aid. It’s so thunderous that Thor himself would ask them to calm it down a bit. Let’s not beat around the bush here, as GREEN DAY celebrate their 35th anniversary this year, playing stadiums at this stage in their career is old hat.
The night’s show is special for a multitude of different reasons. It’s the culmination of years of waiting, uncertainty and people are here for a release, and boy do they get it. Opening with a rabble rousing American Idiot, it becomes clear immediately that GREEN DAY mean business. Following it up with the triple strike of Holiday, Know Your Enemy, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams, feels a bit like taking the piss, especially as they have just peeled off four of their biggest songs as set openers like it’s nothing.
This is only the beginning. Over the course of an hour and a half, they took us on a rollercoaster of emotions through the biggest and most memorable rock songs ever written. There is an art to being a stadium sized rock band and crafting a show that feels worthy of that status, GREEN DAY know this. Billie Joe Armstrong pulls a fan up on stage at one point to sing with him, before they conclude their moment together with a stage dive back into the crowd. Another moment sees a young lad pulled out of the crowd to shred Knowledge by OPERATION IVY with the band, the lad himself crushing it, and being later identified as Tik Tok creator Kai Ross Best.
The pyro, graphics, and enough fireworks to make a Fourth of July parade look like a poorly put together piss about in someone’s back garden. All of it tonight creates a highly entertaining and well crafted rock concert. But truthfully, all the bells and whistles pale in comparison to the spine tingling atmosphere and sense of pure elation radiating from the 75,000 plus assembled. There are tears of joy, mass sing-alongs, strangers creating memories that will live on forever and the overwhelming sense that after all the bullshit the last couple of years has thrown at us, we are finally back exactly where we belong. As if to illustrate this point further, during set closer Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) Billie Joe Armstrong stops playing, steps back and says “There are 75,000 people here…how the hell did this happen” in disbelief, it’s a moment that not only acknowledges the magnitude of how big GREEN DAY are, but also the incredible power of live music as a shared experience.