Live review: Green Day, Manchester Emirates Old Trafford

Welcome to paradise: Green Day dazzle Manchester with mammoth Dookie and American Idiot knees-up as The Saviors Tour makes its debut in England…

Live review: Green Day, Manchester Emirates Old Trafford
Emily Carter
Greg Schneider

“Tonight, we are fucking alive!” proclaims Billie Joe Armstrong, during an instrumental pause before the bridge in Letterbomb. The frontman is still buzzing with energy and passion some 32 songs into an extraordinary 37-song setlist at Emirates Old Trafford this evening – and Green Day’s inimitable leader is rallying 50,000 fans to let themselves go and whole-heartedly join him in spirit.

“We’ve been through so much together,” he continues, his speech gathering more steam with every clenched fist as he paces across the giant stage. “Every single second matters. Every day. Your family, your friends, the people that are close to you, your lovers… everyone. We have to look out for each other, you know what I mean?

“Because tonight is about joy,” he concludes. “Tonight is not about a party – tonight is a celebration!”

Is there a word for something even bigger than a celebration? Because, yes, this is quite literally that – an anniversary spectacular honouring 30 years of the band’s legendary 1994 album Dookie, and the 20th birthday of their world-dominating American Idiot (of which Letterbomb is taken). But, also, it’s so much more: a life-affirming two hours and 40 minutes spent in the company of one of the biggest and best bands on the planet, still operating at their absolute peak, and showing this epic northern cricket ground what it means to savour every moment.

It’s a total riot from the get-go. Bohemian Rhapsody and Blitzkrieg Bop warm up the crowd’s voices over tape, and the excitement is ramped up further with a career-retrospective video playing out on the screens, soundtracked by interpolations of The Imperial March, We Will Rock You and I Love Rock’n’Roll. Green Day and their trusty accompanying live band then giddily run out onstage before launching straight into the opening track from this year’s excellent Saviors, a pyro-filled The American Dream Is Killing Me (this is dubbed The Saviors Tour, after all), before wasting no time getting into the first of their album celebrations.

“Did I mention it’s the 30-year anniversary of Dookie?” asks Billie Joe midway through Chump, having had to briefly pause proceedings due to an injury in the crowd. While tastefully making sure everyone’s alright, the frontman temporarily steps away from his rock star role and playfully tries his hand at a bit of stand-up comedy. “What’s your name and job?” he asks those in the front, passing the time so security can address the situation. “Your job is to love Green Day? That happens to be my job, too!”

And he’s bloody brilliant at it. Welcome To Paradise. Basket Case. Sassafras Roots. When I Come Around. In The End. Everything is so spot-on, played at a breathless pace with not even the tiniest whiff of nostalgic weariness. Performing in front of an inflatable version of the explosion on Dookie’s cover, all three members take turns in the spotlight to help pay respect to the record that broke them: Mike Dirnt gets one of many deserved salutes during Longview’s iconic bassline, while drummer Tré Cool slinks out from behind the kit, dressed in a leopard print robe – because of course – to croon the hilarious hidden track All By Myself.

A subsequent career-spanning six-song interlude is just as entertaining once the Dookie segment is done. Know Your Enemy sees Billie Joe bringing a green-haired fan up onstage for an excitable sing-along, while Look Ma, No Brains! and One Eyed Bastard show that more than three decades in, Green Day’s songwriting simply doesn’t miss. Even a flubbed moment on the harmonica during Minority is laughed off by the frontman, unable to dampen such high spirits.

It doesn’t seem possible, but the American Idiot blowout actually gets even better. Billie Joe aptly tweaks the lyrics to ‘I’m not a part of a right-wing agenda’ during the explosive opening title-track, raging in front of a huge heart grenade from the album’s artwork. Elsewhere, Jesus Of Suburbia, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends deliver choruses so loud they can probably be heard all the way in California, where this material was written more than 20 years ago. There’s a massive glitterball during Are We The Waiting, red streamers to mark the end of St. Jimmy, and plenty of customary ‘weyyyyyy-ohhhhhh’s thrown in for good measure.

Having each only been performed live less than 60 times (compared to, say, Holiday, which has racked up nearly 600 plays), the closing one-two of Homecoming and Whatsername feel extra-special this evening. The former is the longest song in the setlist but goes by in a flash, while the latter is chillingly beautiful, as Billie Joe reflects on how, ‘I’ll never turn back time / Forgetting you but not the time.’

But are they done yet? Oh no. Recent fan-favourite Bobby Sox preludes a jokey snippet of 99 Bottles Of Beer – “Just think if we went all the way to 100!” Billie laughs. “Something tells me everybody’s drunk about 100 beers already tonight…” – before the arms-in-the-air triumph of Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) rounds off what is ultimately one of the best tours Green Day have ever put on.

For fans, what’s perhaps even more exciting, however, is the undeniable enthusiasm from the band throughout. Though The Saviors Tour is predominantly a look back at Green Day’s outstanding achievements ’til now, you can’t help but feel that, based on tonight, they have even more left to give. And they so clearly want to, as well. Because just as Billie Joe declares, we are “fucking alive”. And it’s never felt so good.

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