Green Day, Wembley Stadium, London


Fiery rockers slam-dunk the punk

Only Green Day, 21 years into their career and about to play what they themselves describe as the biggest gig of their lives, would dare to have their set introduced by a man in a giant pink bunny suit.

That this takes place while fans are shuffled into their seats by unsmiling men in dark suits pretty much sums the Green Day live experience up. Goofy juvenile shtick mixed with a slightly corporate cynicism that threatens to ruin it all.

Despite the best efforts of the so-called "drunken bunny", Green Day actually put in a slow start, kicking off their set with nine lightweight songs from their American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums. With frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's slightly awkward World Cup references and screams of "Englaaaaaaand" between each and every song, the overall feeling is that Green Day are simply playing for time with the opening 30 minutes of their set.

As soon as the sun sets, however, the show really gets going. An impressive light display flickers into life and the stage bursts with fireworks and flame-throwers so powerful I can feel the heat from at least 300 metres away.

Somewhat surprisingly – and much to the delight of their older fanbase – Armstrong declares "the old songs are better anyway." It's true of course, but surprising to hear the frontman of a band which has worked so hard to find a contemporary relevance admit it so publically. The two young girls in front of me, clutching American Idiot posters and "Jesus of Suburbia" T-shirts, look more than a little heartbroken.

And so begins the real Green Day set; song after song of gloriously snotty pop punk from the band's mid-90s heyday. "Longview", "Basket Case" and a truly fabulous version of "Welcome to Paradise" are all played at breakneck speed, while a stream of kids are dragged up on stage to sing and have photos taken with their heroes.

By far the most entertaining song is "King for a Day" which sees Green Day dress up in cloaks, crowns and a manner of ludicrous eyewear. The song itself takes over 20 minutes to perform, thanks to mid-song interpretations of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o'Mine", AC/DC's "Highway to Hell", The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and The Isley Brothers' "Shout".

When, midway through the trio of ballads that bring proceedings to a close, Armstrong suggests that Green Day will never break up, adding "The only way I'm leaving this band is in a wooden box", it's hard not to believe him.

Although the sentiments are sugar coated and always, always timed to elicit the maximum emotional response from their fans, it's obvious to all in attendance that Green Day and their fans are clearly still having the time of their lives.

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