Review: Green Day, Leeds First Direct Arena

Punk rockers Green Day have never been afraid about getting political.
Green DayGreen Day
Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong recently called Donald Trump's actions since becoming president an assault on civil liberties.

He branded him a madman, accusing the world's most powerful man of pushing an agenda that promoted nothing but division.

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And at a packed out Leeds First Direct Arena on Sunday night, with thousands of musically like-minded individuals in attendance, togetherness was very much the theme.

"It's so good to be back in England," bellowed Billie Joe, wrapped in a St George's flag. "There's so much negativity you read on your phone every day, so much corruption. Not tonight! We're here tonight for each other. Nobody is getting turned away tonight. Because we have joy, love and passion. Tonight I want to hear those proud England voices."

Twelfth studio album 'Revolution Radio' came out at the end of last year and six tracks from that record appear on the 30-song setlist.

'Bang Bang' and 'Revolution Radio' hit hard early, seamlessly sliding in alongside three decades worth of material .

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"Are there any old school Green Day fans out there?" Billie Joe asks, holding aloft a guitar he later touchingly recalls his mum buying for him when he was 10.

As 'Longview's' instantly recognizably drum beat and bass line hit, the crowds erupts. There's no let up. 'Basket Case' remains as fresh live as it did back in 1994 when you couldn't turn on a music channel without seeing it; 'When I Come Around' has the masses almost disappearing into a whirlpool of moshpits and 'Minority' is a slice of upbeat pop-punk heaven.

Billie Joe's battles with alcohol and drug addiction have been well documented. The Californian native once said he drank before gigs for 'liquid courage'.

Sober now for five years, he hasn't lost any of the edge, charm or energy that makes him one of rock''s most personable frontmen.

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The 44-year-old throws himself around the stage like there's no tomorrow; a skinny-jeaned vortex. I doubt he wears a Fitbit but if he does I'm willing to bet he clocked up more steps in that two-and-a-half hour performance than I have in two weeks.

The ringleader and the clown, his impish grin is as infectious as the riffs he plays.

At one he spots somebody sat down. "Oi, stand up! This is a rock and roll concert, not a tea party!"

There's no time to relax. This is a 100mph non-stop punk rock assault overflowing with highlights. The riotous climax to 'Hitchin' A Ride'; the impromptu renditions of 'Teenage Kicks' and 'Hey Jude'; water guns. It's the party you never want to end.

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Audience participation has been part of the Green Day live experience for as long as they've been touring. Before first song of the night 'Know Your Enemy' has even finished Billie Joe has a young girl up on stage singing, before encouraging her to embark on a spot of crowd surfing.

"Three chords is all you need to know," as he pulls up another youngster to play alongside the band before sending him packing with a guitar, a grin and a memory he'll cherish forever.

These segments are tried, tested and for the most part predictable but it doesn't make the sentiment any less touching or any less genuine. Green Day are masters of extravagance, swashbuckling entertainers with a flair for the flamboyant.

Prophetically titled 'American Idiot' kicks off a rollicking encore featuring mini punk opera 'Jesus of Suburbia'.

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The calm tonight comes after the storm as Billie Joe returns to an empty stage, acoustic in hand.

Farewell ballad 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' turns 20 later this year and brims with sweet nostalgia. On a night full of gimmicks and grand gestures, it's a delicate and beautfuil last act.

In strange and uncertain times, Green Day remain a joyous distraction. And that is as refreshing as it is reassuring.