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Concert reviews
Sheffield, 10/26/2009
T in the Park, 07/10/2005
Milton Keynes, 06/18/2005
Rock Am Ring, 06/04/2005
Vancouver, 11/17/2004
Tokyo, 08/07/2004
Los Angeles, 07/29/2004
Avenches, 08/16/2001
Milano, 12/03/2000
Zürich, 02/17/1997
Neuchâtel, 03/17/1996
Winterthur, 09/09/1995

~ Green Day ~
American Idiot Tour

Vancouver, Canada @ the Pacific Coliseum
17th November 2004

Green Day vs. R.E.M.
By Andre Beaucage, 12/20/04

Here is a sentence I thought I'd never write: Green Day was better live than R.E.M. Now, please, try and understand where I'm coming from here. A quick scan of my COMPLETELY LEGAL mp3 collection sees approximately 200 songs from the Athens, Georgia quartet (errrr, trio) and a grand total of five songs by Green Day. So why the change of heart? Simple. Green Day put on the single most entertaining show I've ever been to and R.E.M. didn't.

Two major factors were working against R.E.M. even before they took the stage. The venues both bands were playing at and the material they were both touring to support. Both R.E.M.'s Around The Sun and Green Day's American Idiot are politically charged diatribes against the current political administration in the U.S. but the similarities end there. One of these albums has the chance to go down in history as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded and the other one is so easily forgotten it's almost like it never existed. The clear superiority of the latest Green Day recording had a lot to do with the enjoyability of the shows. Strike two against R.E.M. was the choice in venue. Green Day played at the old but still serviceable Pacific Coliseum, while R.E.M. was in the stodgy and uptight Orpheum theatre. The difference in venue alone creates a totally different mood.
The most striking difference was the age of the crowds. Now, anyone with 3 brain cells to rub together knows that a R.E.M. crowd is going to be older than a Green Day crowd, but I never would of imagined how much older. The average age at the Green Day show was maybe 17 or 18. R.E.M.? Thirty-five and that's being kind. Part of this is simply the natural difference in the music of the two bands, the other was monetary. Tickets to Green Day were around $35. My seats for R.E.M., assuming I hadn't bought them from one of Vancouver's wonderful legal scalping companies, would have gone for just over $100. A quick note, don't ever use one of those companies. They have a way of selling you one thing, having you pay for it and then giving you something completely different once the day of the show rolls around.
The differences between Green Day and R.E.M. didn't stop once the lights went down. The number one reason why I enjoyed the Green Day show so much more than the R.E.M. show was crowd participation. The funniest part of this is if you know the history of the bands, you would have expected it to be the other way around. In their college radio days, R.E.M. was infamous for putting on crazy live shows with almost limitless manic energy and they played to their fans, albeit only a few hundred at the 40 Watt in Athens, with abandon. Green Day, on the other hand, was much more image-conscious. Once their watershed album Dookie hit it big, the band was widely criticized by their punk rock brethren as being sell outs. Their response was the much darker and edgier Insomniac. What has changed is that Green Day has grown up, while R.E.M. has just grown old.
The group fun started pretty much right away with Green Day, with lead singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong leading the crowd in various chants and then asking those that wanted to to join the festivities on the floor of the coliseum, immediately endearing himself to the 8,000+ in attendance. The highlight of the night for many was a sort of fan play-along that would be a wet-dream-come-true for any long time Green Day fan. Armstrong asked for and invited three fans up on stage, one to play drums, one to play bass and one to play lead. As if that wasn't cool enough, the guy who ended up playing lead was given the guitar he jammed on as a gift as he was walking off stage. Truly a moment I'll never forget as a fan. The fan-friendly show continued with a liberal sprinkling of cover tunes. Now, a band with seven studio albums does not need to perform cover songs, unless they want to really whip a crowd into a frenzy. Green Day did that and more, busting out, of all the songs they could have covered, Shout from Animal House fame. I was concerned for a moment that with the relative young age of the crowd that they wouldn't know the proper sing-along technique, but with ever, "a little bit softer now…" the crowd caught on and the song was a hit. Another surprise cover was We Are The Champions by Queen. A curious choice but when taken into context with this band having clearly grown into their own skin and not giving a damn what people think about them anymore, it made perfect sense. A very melancholy and sweet moment. The evening climaxed with the firing off of confetti cannons towards the end of the show. Now this is something that the Dookie/Insomniac era Green Day wouldn't have been caught dead doing. But amazingly enough, it managed to not smack of boy band silliness and when viewed on the larger scale of the show as a whole, it was a nice crescendo to an amazing evening.
Meanwhile, over at the Orpheum, R.E.M. opened with a pair of older songs, off of 1987's Document and 1985's Life's Rich Pageant, but right away you can tell something is up. The "sold out" house stands immediately during the first song, but unfortunately, that's all they do. It was once said that people dance at an R.E.M. show, but it's a completely unique, internal sort of dancing, sort of self-contained, a far cry from the flailing that Michael Stipe has become known for on stage. None of that was evident the entire evening. I saw maybe a dozens people in the entire theatre dancing. It was disheartening to say the least. The best crowd reactions of the night were predictably from R.E.M.'s 1989-1992 Green-Automatic For The People-Out of Time phase. Now, I'm not so naive that I expected fans to explode for the shoe-gazing melodies of Around The Sun, but there was so little reaction for the new material it was as if the crowd had never heard it before. And the same seemed true for the older stuff. Even when the band pulled out rare gems like Life and How To Live It off of 1985's Fables Of The Reconstruction, (my personal favorite album of all time), the crowd either sat down or just stood motionless while the band played. For the record, there were a total of zero "audience claps hands to the beat of the song", no effort from the band to get the crowd into the show whatsoever and very little showmanship from any of the band members. The only real highlight was hearing Stipe give a rather lengthy introduction to I Wanted To Be Wrong. The evening really needed more of that. For a band that has made it's home-away-from-home in Vancouver, it was sad that they couldn't be bothered to put on a better show.
So, this begs the question, am I now more a fan of Green Day than R.E.M.? To that, I say no. I'm still much more of a "R.E.M." person than a "Green Day" person, recent orange hair dye job aside. But what has changed is my respect for Green Day. The only possible comparison I can make is with The Beastie Boys. For years, I think a lot of people views the Beastie Boys as almost a curiosity, a group of side show freaks that were cute and had a few catchy songs, but god forbid, they couldn't possibly be talented, could they? Well, guess what? Not only are they talented but they might even be geniuses. One listen to American Idiot in its entirety should remove any doubt of that. I thank Green Day, and my girlfriend for getting me to go, for expanding my musical horizons and let's hope R.E.M. can find that muse that made them one of the greatest bands of all time before people stop caring completely.

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