Some of the punk rock ethos is safety-pinned to sincere concerns about our rotting society. The rest is a blue-faced hissy fit about the tyranny of a midnight curfew. It's usually pretty easy to see which is which.
American Idiot, the Green Day album released at the height of the Bush-Kerry election battle, has always seemed to me a relatively mature attempt at political commentary from a trio of wealthy West Coast liberals ("the faggot America") disgusted with their countrymen's embrace of a man who demographic trends suggest will be the last to lead our nation by "redneck agenda."
American Idiot, the touring Broadway musical currently in Portland, uses those same songs to tell—"tell" is perhaps an overly strong word considering the plot's every bit as threadbare as the flophouse couch where some of the "action" plays out—the story of a self-pitying junkie who writes passive-aggressive letters to his mother and feuds with his dirtbag buddies and party-girl lady-friend. It's a bit like the hackiest scenes in SLC Punk without the comparatively rich character development that comes from learning, say, how Heroin Bob got his nickname.
The script is the main problem, but Jared Neptune doesn't help things by playing apparent protagonist Johnny with a stab-me-please-right-here-in-the-throat perma-sneer that leaves his final redemption as a deeply unsatisfying booby prize for the extra-frothy overdose I so dearly coveted.
It's worth mentioning that this redemption comes after Johnny shoves, and then hugs, a punk-buddy-turned-mangled-soldier before facing the audience to confess that it is, in fact, he who is the American Idiot.
The women are the one bright spot—party-girl lady-friend Olivia Puckett in particular kills "Letterbomb"—but the herky-jerky dance numbers they anchor are just cool studs on an ugly bracelet.
I'm no punk-rock lifer, but speaking on behalf of everyone who wore Vans without owning a skateboard and those who begrudgingly slapped a John Kerry sticker on their old Camry, American Idiot highlights everything undesirable about the genre.
GO: American Idiot
is at the Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 241-1802. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday and 1 and 6:30 pm Sunday, Nov. 14-17. Tickets here