Yes, the lineup was iconic. And, yes the nearly two years worth of anticipation played a role in delivering a face-melting experience. However, there was an almost inexplicable, supernatural element at play that helped to make the Fenway stop on the Hella Mega tour on Thursday night (August 5) nothing short of a religious experience.
Navigating within an unseasonably wet and somewhat chilly Boston, the punk rock trifecta of The Interrupters, Weezer, and Green Day brought the heat to the Fenway faithful as they worked to fill a Fall Out Boy-sized gap in the lineup on the fly. In the process, not only did they each re-introduce a veritable ocean of people to the mystique of live music in their own ways, but specifically in the case of the two senior acts, they reminded us of the simple fact that groundbreaking music never ages. And in the case of The Interrupters, we were reminded that oftentimes, the smallest font on the show poster wields the most important task: getting the party started right.
And hot damn, did they ever do that.
The stadium wasn’t even half-full by the time the ska-punk quartet took the stage right around 6 o’clock, but it didn’t take very much time at all for the mighty Bivona brothers and their fearless ring leader, Aimee Interrupter, to set off on a 12-song run that, without exaggeration, didn’t stop for a second. It was straight gas on the outfield grass from the jump, as the SoCal skankers roared through a string of fan favorites to start the set, including “A Friend Like Me,” “By My Side,” and their scorching call to action, “Take Back The Power,” all the while delivering the high energy and good vibes that we all missed so dearly.
It didn’t take very long for guitarist Kevin Bivona to address the crowd and ask the question that had been itching to be answered: “How does it feel to be back and seeing live music, Boston?”
Well, it felt f**king great, and the ground-shaking response reflected that. And truth be told, it was only fitting that a band that has already cemented their place in the hearts of Boston punk rockers over the years, thanks to their characteristically dynamite performances alongside The Mighty Mighty BossTones and Dropkick Murphys, as well as a handful of raucous headlining shows of their own, were the first band back on the biggest stage in the city. But they didn’t let the fact that they had the crowd wrapped around their fingers from the get-go take away from the intensity and precision they operated on as Aimee Interrupter mingled with the crowd as the band continued to burn through another batch of crowd-pleasers like “On a Turntable,” “She Got Arrested,” and their all-too-fun cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”
Three quarters of the set came and went in a flash, but they weren’t going to roll into their final pair of aces before paying tribute to Fall Out Boy, who decided to forego their New York and Boston sets due to the sobering news of a positive COVID test amongst their team earlier in the week. Putting their own spin on the emo gatekeepers’ barn-burners “Centuries,” “Dance, Dance,” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up),” The Interrupters not only provided a desire for more studio-recorded covers now, but also the comfort that, while Fall Out Boy may not have been able to take the stage, their presence and spirit was certainly felt, and their contribution to the genre would not go unnoticed in their absence.
Ending their night on a hearty note with “I Gave You Everything” and “She’s Kerosene,” The Interrupters only further brought their Boston following into the stratosphere, all the while restoring a vast and crushing excitement for the rush of live music.
As road cases were swapped out for a delightfully colorful assault of neon stage pieces, which included but were not limited to three giant turquoise lightning bolts and a giant “W” in the vain of the Van Halen logo, the headfirst dive that pop-punk pioneers Weezer have taken into an ‘80s hair metal persona certainly offered a shift in gears that was not only unsurprisingly well-received, but also seamlessly interchangeable with the band geek-type of deal they brandished for years before. And once frontman Rivers Cuomo made his way to the stage donning a studded leather jacket and a hall-of-fame-level mullet/dad ‘stache combo, just the mere sight and joyously oozing personality of the man taking up a power stance and raising the devil horns to the sky sent the crowd into a frenzy that never fully let up, even well past the time the band had left the stage.
Balancing the shredding licks found on their latest studio effort, Van Weezer, with the drudgy and sometimes droning anthems that have consistently shaped and re-shaped their superstardom over the last 25 years, Cuomo and co. curated a set that was equal parts refreshing and nostalgic for everyone from the “hot topic kids” in attendance to the dads who drove them there.
Wasting no time getting into the synth and high-neck guitar work of “Hero,” the band was visibly having just as much fun, if not more, than the crowd as bassist Scott Shriner and guitarist Brian Bell shed giant smiles as the crowd jumped in rhythm and sang the words back to the band. It was all systems go from the moment they hit the stage, there’s no doubt about that, but as Cuomo leaned into the sinister intro riff of “Hash Pipe” (which has presumably taken on a different level of meaning and freedom for Massachusetts over the last few years), the metaphoric cloud of hairspray disappeared and was replaced by the sweat and grime we all know and love from the days of dingy punk dives.
From that point on, the unity of the two vibes volleyed back and forth in harmony as the sounds of tracks like “All The Good Ones,” “Beverly Hills,” “The End Of The Game,” “My Name Is Jonas,” and “Pork and Beans” peppered the first part of the set with a flurry of fan favorites as the sun began to set behind a thick blanket of clouds.
Following the tailor-made sing-alongs of “All My Favorite Songs,” and “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and the grooving of “Surf Wax America” and “El Scorcho,” it was as if a switch flipped when Cuomo made his way to the end of the stage that extended out to the edge of the crowd to put his Red Sox hat in the ring of paying homage to Fall Out Boy. With a somber and heartfelt acoustic rendition of “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” the hard-driving atmosphere took a dip to sappy land, as the emotion of the moment truly solidified the fact that this was a sorely missed activity, and brought the simmering swell of excitement, anxiety and joy of standing skin to skin with 40,000 sweaty strangers for a few hours to a boiling point.
Throughout their set, Cuomo’s demeanor was reminiscent of someone who was repeatedly shocked about where he was and what he was doing, almost with the innocence and wonderment of a child, and at times with the body language that seemed to ask “Is this okay? Are we doing well?”
And he answered that question himself, as he strolled into the feel-good strumming of “Island In the Sun,” which seemed to allow everyone to forget that we were in a cloud of drizzling rain and haze for a bit. But the easy going motion was about to set sail as the iconic intro to Toto’s “Africa” was met with earth-shattering applause. Cue pandemonium.
Riding that lasting, rumbling Floor Tom energy all the way through “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Buddy Holly” to end their time on stage, the ghost of Eddie Van Halen must have been beaming as Weezer took the baton of the hair metal scene and smashed it, Stone Cold Steve Austin-style, with the angst and vulnerability of the punk scene that they’ve consistently challenged with the best possible results over the years.
They played so well and so in synch with the vibe of the night, in fact, that it was almost hard to believe that there was another type of Green Monster lurking right around the corner — and it was just about ready to pounce.
After “Bohemian Rhapsody” tore through the PA system, prompting a goosebump-inducing, stadium-wide sing-along, the punk rock steam engine that chugged along at a devilish speed had reached its final stop, only to be met with a video montage set to the simultaneous tune of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and “We Will Rock You,” as well as the now-legendary mystery man in a bunny costume — imagine a punk rock “Harvey” — who brings the crowd to the brink of destruction before Green Day takes the stage.
Making their way to the dimly-lit stage as fans greeted them with bone-chilling applause, Green Day had finally arrived for the moment fans had been waiting to relish in for nearly two years, and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong made it obvious that he had been waiting too. With his hands raised in the air in triumph, the legendary frontman took only a short beat to welcome to crowd before kicking in the door with the scorching opening riff of “American Idiot”. Right out of the gate, it was apparent that the Iconic East Bay trio wasn’t going to give us just another Green Day show. They were here to seize the moment before it had the chance to get away, with more power than ever before.
What followed the opening track, and an impassioned speech of unity by Armstrong, was a bonafide blizzard of hit after pulverizing hit, with “Holiday,” “Know Your Enemy,” newcomer “Pollyanna,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” ushering in what was already shaping up to be a tough night for every throat in the stadium, as fans sang each song back nearly as loud and fast as Armstrong could pump them out.
Once the first batch of mid-2000’s radio staples were proven to still be absolute bangers that somehow no longer feel overplayed when played live, Drummer Tre Cool and Bassist Mike Dirnt rumbled in with the iconic rhythm of “Longview,” effectively bringing every Gen-Xer in the crowd back to their basements and bedrooms for a string of songs from the Dookie and Nimrod eras. Tearing through the set at a dangerously fast clip, the boys shredded “Welcome To Paradise” and “Hitchin’ a Ride,” with the added guitar punch of Jason White, before throwing down their latest tour circuit cover with the KISS classic “Rock and Roll All Nite,” which in many ways, perfectly encapsulates the marriage between punk and glam they’ve ordained since the days of American Idiot and their 2009 follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown.
Juggling the anger, angst and defiance that has carried them through generations of industry changes with the more sentimental and uplifting outlook that has kept them one step ahead of the game for the better part of the last 15 years, Green Day curated a masterful set that did a whole lot of looking back without much of their new material finding its way onto the setlist, but quite frankly, nobody seemed to give a shit. They were too busy headbanging to “St. Jimmy,” “When I Come Around,” and “Brain Stew,” which in hindsight was sort of an accidental anthem that represented a lot of the feelings of the last year and a half in lockdown.
Now, not many bands can pull off a vibe change quite like Green Day. For example, going from the jump-and-mosh-in-time rhythm of a Dookie classic to the emotionally raw and slow acoustic burn of “21 Guns” without losing the crowd for a bit or ruining the flow of the night. Instead, with the entire stadium taking out their cellphone lights, it brought an entirely new layer of emotion and meaning to the night, almost in a way of showing each other that they were all there, they were safe, and they were experiencing this moment together. The highs and lows of the night accented each other flawlessly as the knob cranked back up to 11, and Armstrong and the gang tore though “Minority,” and rolled into the customary part of the evening where he brought a fan up onstage to finish playing Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge” before he brought the nostalgic hammer down a few more times with “Basket Case” and “She.”
As the end of the night became a bit clearer on the horizon, Armstrong took to the stage extension with acoustic guitar in hand to shell out the evergreen feels of “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” which he injected with just a smidge of extra heart-wrenching poetry by substituting the line “seven years have gone so fast” with “forty years have gone so fast.” It was heavy, admittedly sobering, and a beautiful re-touch to the song paying tribute to his late father.
As if the waterworks weren’t already on standby, or even in full motion at that point, the words of “Still Breathing,” a song of redemption and survival from their 2016 effort Revolution Radio, reverberated off the Green Monster and through the hearts of what felt like every single person in the park, as the crowd sang along in unison to a tune that has become all too relatable as we cautiously take the turn at third toward a possible end of the pandemic.
While the emotions were still flowing, and the screams of relief and happiness echoed through the fully illuminated Boston skyline, the band tore into the nine-minute epic “Jesus of Suburbia,” where the lyrics of the song’s second movement “City Of The Damned” came into focus, as the center of the earth felt more like center field at Fenway Park on a dreary Thursday night in August, as opposed to the end of the world.
With such a vast catalog that spans genres and the spectrum of emotion, how do you cap off such a monumental evening? Well, with a heart-wrenching, solo rendition of “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life,” of course. As Armstrong strummed the closing the chords of the night’s final song, which had to have brought everyone back to their eighth grade graduation, confetti cannons erupted with a showering of that pesky shredded paper that is most likely going to be a real bastard for the grounds crew to clean up, but that didn’t matter in the moment. What mattered most, as Cool and Dirnt returned to the stage to take a final bow alongside their captain of chaos, was that they were all there to be baptized in the punk rock gospel according to Reverend Armstrong.
At different moments throughout their respective sets, each band expressed how much of a dream come true it had been to perform at Fenway Park. Come to think of it, while it became more apparent as the night went on that it wasn’t just a nice thing to say in the heat of the moment, many aspects of the night, amidst a galaxy of cellphone lights on more than one occasion, were something reminiscent of a lucid dream that the crowd was living, as well: It was fast and chaotic at times, but serene and emotional at others, the absence of certain entities were viscerally felt, and the moment ran through town in what seemed like the longest blink of an eye. And even if only for those five hours, the nightmare of the last year and a half certainly still loomed outside, but nothing could break the spirit of 40,000-some odd people within the confines of America’s oldest ballpark who were singing, dancing, moshing, crying and feeling all the nostalgic emo feels of yesteryear once gain, the way they’re felt best — together.
Article/Images: Jason Greenough