Green Day’s American Idiot, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Wednesday 05 December 2012
The rock opera first grappled with by Pete Townshend and Ray Davies at the end of the 1960s, as rock’s growing thematic seriousness and their own straining ambitions seemed to demand a grander canvas than three-minute pop, was often dashed on the rocks of their hubris.
For a punk rock opera (or more plainly, musical) to bridge this divide during a hit Broadway run is a feat Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong can take great pride in. The veteran Berkeley punk (with book co-writer/director Michael Mayer) is now testing the UK waters, with a tour ending at this venerable rock venue.
Armstrong takes a fundamentalist approach to Green Day’s hit 2004 LP American Idiot, adding a few scattered later songs by the band and lines of dialogue. That album’s themes have a true sense in this setting of youthful and post-September 11 political malaise. Johnny (Alex Nee) is the Jesus of Suburbia, heading to the big city with his friend Tunny (Thomas Hettrick), whose remote-control clicking through US TV’s militarist propaganda leads to a sleight of hand transformation from pants-wearing couch-surfer to uniformed soldier. As Tunny descends, stage-right, into a terrified hell leading to amputation of a leg in Iraq, Johnny is tempted by Whatsername (Alyssa DiPalma), the city girl love of his life, and blond-mohicaned punk Mephistopheles St. Jimmy (a cockily charismatic Trent Saunders). “Last Night On Earth”, during which the star-crossed lovers are bonded by the tube they’ve tied off with as they jack up with heroin, show how uncompromised Armstrong has been in entering the contemporary musical (and the mostly debased form he’s really rivaling, the We Will Rock You-style jukebox show).
The sheer volume of the stage band’s music and the frenetic rush of action provide constant energy. But tunes recalling the 1950s pastiche of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or, during “We’re Coming Home Again”, the Phil Spectoresque Springsteen of Born to Run, have few punk credentials. The indulgent-youths versus dutiful-wives combat of “Too Much Too Soon” also shows how much Armstrong’s characters are Kerouac boys and girls at base, American idiots and ennui unchanged. American Idiot is too traditional in its staging and its heart to be the radical experience one great Sex Pistols single would provide. But Armstrong and Mayer can be congratulated for the hyper-energetic confidence of what they’ve attempted.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 teaser trailer sees Katniss lead rebellion against the Capitol
The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace