I don't think I'll ever forgive Rage Against the Machine for sitting out the Bush administration. After a decade of railing against U.S. imperialism, the rap-rockers went on hiatus just as the U.S. invaded a couple countries and tortured thousands of people.
While Harvard-trained Champagne socialist Tom Morello played with his pedals in Audioslave, a high school drop-out from the crusty side of the East Bay penned the definitive political album of his generation.
It was an unlikely trajectory for Green Day, a pop-punk trio that broke through with a song about beating off in a beaten-down logging town, which had been opening for Blink-182 in the years before they raged back into relevance with American Idiot. It was, as they say, something unpredictable, that in the end was right.
Which is probably why the Idiot-era material dominated Wednesday night's Green Day show at the Moda Center, which felt more like a political rally than a pop-punk show, albeit one with a shitload of pyro.
Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool played a setlist culled from their entire 30-year career, from "2000 Light Years Away" to "Ordinary World," the closer of the band's new record, Revolution Radio, and the title track of a new film in which he plays the lead role.
But the Idiot-era stuff—"Holiday," "St. Jimmy," "Letterbomb" and "Jesus of Suburbia"—drew the warmest reception, and seemed to be the favorite of the band.
Armstrong saluted his "West Coast brothers and sisters" in the crowd during "Letterbomb."
"Portland, you get it, you always have, you've always been a step ahead of the rest of the United States," he said to proud cheers.
Despite some hard living, the band looked as youthful in person as their current press photos and Armstrong's voice sounds pretty much exactly as it did when he broke through at Woodstock '94 on a moody "She" and an ebullient cover of Operation Ivy's "Knowledge."
Another highlight was "Still Breathing," a single off Revolution Radio, which came just before the first encore break.
It's a strong pop-punk song—it'd have been a great Avril Lavigne song. It's a catchy song, and Armstrong sang it with passion. But it's also more inwardly focused than the songs that got the crowd standing, stomping, moshing and extending their middle fingers toward the oppressors. It's hard to sing about beating hearts when the crowd came for red meat.
All photos by Thomas Teal.