Green Day’s American Idiot, Hammersmith Apollo, London

3.00

 

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. 

Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash