On a typical weekend at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, it’s easy to find Bay Area locals and out-of-town baseball lovers bathed in orange and black, screaming profanities at umpires and indulging in ballpark nachos served in souvenir hats. After so much time indoors, any in-person event is considered a hot commodity.
When radio legends Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Green Day announced a co-headlining arena tour across the US, it came as no surprise that every music lover within three hours of Oracle Park jumped at the chance to sit in the stands or on the field for a nearly six-hour-long, powerful, nostalgic live musical experience.
Early in the evening of Aug. 27, the overpriced beer was flowing and the emo girlies were lined up for the biggest live concert San Francisco had seen in more than a year, appropriately titled “The Hella Mega Tour.” Playing to a sold-out crowd, the three giants of 2000s Hot Topic culture set out to bring fans together once again following a year of empty stages and virtual performances.
Ahead of Green Day’s end-of-the-night set, a grungy rabbit mascot, known to Green Day devotees as the Drunk Bunny, set out across the stage to hype up the waiting crowd. After a few short moments, the lights went down for a montage video of sketched-out skulls and overlapped punk images to introduce the East Bay’s own boy-wonder band.
Green Day’s lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, appeared in a classic red blazer and striking black eyeliner, a 924 Gilman sticker adorning his guitar. Tré Cool, whom Armstrong introduced as the “world’s most dangerous drummer,” even matched the collar of his shirt to his shiny leopard print drum set.
The punk outfit started off hard with “American Idiot,” Armstrong encouraging the audience to put their phones away, saying “We are not socially distancing tonight.” Green Day sounded as sharp as ever, especially with more than 30 years of performing experience to back it up. It was uncomfortable, however, to hear the homophobic slurs used in “American Idiot” and “Holiday” still present in the group’s live shows after all this time. Armstrong himself identifies as bisexual, but listening to an entire stadium of people singing along to slurs is jarring, to say the least.
Opening with these two songs — two of the biggest in Green Day’s discography — made for an energetic wave that carried throughout the set. “Know Your Enemy,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Welcome to Paradise” and “Brain Stew” were just a few of the hits that seemingly every crowd member could recite flawlessly. Not every song landed quite as hard — the band’s newest single “Pollyanna” didn’t rouse much attention, and “Still Breathing” had some of the weakest tones in the setlist.
Balancing the modern with the classic, Green Day threw Kiss’ “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” at the audience to incredible reception; the tambourine player onstage even sported Kiss-inspired face paint. Fans ate up performances of “When I Come Around,” “21 Guns” and welcomed Armstrong’s harmonica solo on “Minority.”
Armstrong cited the San Francisco show as “the most beautiful night of the tour so far.” Bassist Mike Dirnt played his Fender Precision Bass to new and old Green Day fans alike, with Armstrong admitting he knows many of their older fans are more like “middle school fans.” Newer to the stage was rhythm guitarist Kevin Preston, as was the lucky fan Armstrong selected from the crowd to play guitar chords with Green Day on a cover of a song by the Berkeley band Operation Ivy. It could’ve been tempting for soundboard monitors to mute the audience member’s playing and preserve theatricality with no trip-ups, but the rawness of the moment was revealed when a few chords slipped as the pulled-up musician adjusted their mask between strums.
Green Day closed down the house with a moving acoustic performance of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” and fittingly, bright green fireworks lit up the sky as fans trickled out of the rows. Needless to say, this was one home run return for live music.