Punk goes stadium rock: Green Day, Weezer & The Interrupters played Citi Field (pics, review)
When Green Day, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy first announced the Hella Mega Tour, I rolled my eyes at it. Monsters of Rock for the pop punk generation? It just seemed like the latest in a long string of lengths Green Day and Weezer would go to disappoint their fans, be it Broadway shows, inescapable Toto covers, or head-scratchingly bad late-career albums. Especially for Green Day, who grinded at the legendary DIY venue 924 Gilman for years before getting famous and who still love playing small venues, what business do they have doing a stadium tour? It just reeks of the urge to prove that they're the biggest band in the world that they've had ever since American Idiot.
And yet, as a 30-year-old punk fan and probably the target demographic for this tour, I surrendered to my curiosity and found myself at Citi Field in Queens on Wednesday (8/4), ready to see a punk show at a venue usually reserved for pop megastars and classic rock bands.
Making this show slightly less hella mega was the absence of Fall Out Boy, who had to drop off this show (and Thursday's Boston show) at the last minute due to a person on their team testing positive for COVID. If you were attending this show for '90s nostalgia, that might not have seemed like a huge loss, as Fall Out Boy's breakthrough didn't come until about a decade after Green Day and Weezer's, but they're also probably the second most popular band on this tour, and presumably responsible for attracting a younger crowd, so I did wonder if their last-minute cancellation would mean a noticeably smaller turnout. But the Hella Mega tour persevered, and by the time Green Day took the stage, the home of the New York Mets looked pretty damn full. And both Weezer and opening act The Interrupters did some fan service by covering "Sugar, We're Goin Down," with The Interrupters doing about half the song full-band, and Rivers Cuomo playing the entire song solo during Weezer's set.
As for the rest of The Interrupters' set, they were the perfect band to open this kind of show. Their 2018 single "She's Kerosene" (which closed their set) was the first genuinely popular ska-punk single in ages, and in general, they hearken right back to the mid '90s punk era that Green Day and Weezer blew up during. One of their songs ("Broken World") was co-written by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, and all of their albums are produced by Green Day's old pal Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Operation Ivy. If you've kinda checked out from new music but you're coming to this tour for the '90s hits, you'd probably find that The Interrupters tap into the sound of that era effortlessly and deliver potential hit after potential hit. Every song in their setlist was insanely catchy -- not just "She's Kerosene," their more recent hit "Gave You Everything," and their popular cover of Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" -- and The Interrupters really knew how to play to a stadium crowd. They looked the part, they were incredibly tight, and they knew exactly how to get the crowd going, even if most people in attendance were unfamiliar with their songs. At one point they joked about how they're now a stadium rock band and did a partial, tongue-in-cheek cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" to prove it, but jokes aside, The Interrupters really do know how to be a stadium band. I wouldn't be surprised if they left Citi Field with tons of new fans.
Weezer followed, and they really leaned in to the whole stadium rock thing. Before they took the stage, they blasted Van Halen's "Jump" over the PA, nodding to the fact that they wrote their Van Halen-inspired album Van Weezer in order to have some actual stadium rock-sounding songs in their arsenal for this tour. They also went all out visually, with the floating Weezer logo flanked by three gigantic lightning bolts, literally dozens of pastel-colored Marshall cabs stacked to towering heights, and six (!) bass drums just to spell out "w-e-e-z-e-r" with one letter on each one. Totally unnecessary! (Yet somehow charming.) If that wasn't enough, Rivers Cuomo took the stage donning a studded leather jacket, mullet, mustache, and V-shaped Jackson guitar, as if he was dressing up as an '80s stadium rocker for Halloween. Weezer have always had this side to them (there's an ode to Kiss on their first record), but that didn't make any of it seem less ridiculous.
As for the songs, it was a typical hit-or-miss Weezer show. As they usually do, Weezer sounded genuinely great when they played the classics (which included half of Blue Album), but they littered their set with way too many late-career duds. I don't know how many Weezer fans are dropping a few hundred bucks a ticket with hopes of hearing "Feels Like Summer," but for me, I'd like to see Weezer put half as much effort into their setlist as they do into their stage props. That said, if Weezer proved anything at this show, it's that their "uncool" songs tend to fare a lot better than their "cool" ones. "Beverly Hills" and their cover of Toto's "Africa" were two of the biggest crowdpleasers of the night. The one Pinkerton song they played ("El Scorcho") went over alright; it got its biggest reaction when Rivers knowingly sang the "I asked you to go to the Green Day concert" line and then paused the song to let the crowd scream.
Obviously Weezer need to play that song on this tour, just for that line alone, but here's the thing about that line: this really was a Green Day concert. I don't know if it would have been different if Fall Out Boy played, but it didn't feel like a stadium-sized package tour; it felt like a Green Day tour with very strong support. From the moment Green Day took the stage (after their sound engineer induced audience singalongs to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Blitzkrieg Bop"), Citi Field erupted more than it had all night, and Green Day had the tens of thousands of people in attendance in the palms of their hands. Green Day brought some stadium-sized frills too -- they used fireworks during the first song -- but for the most part, Green Day commanded the massive crowd by just being Green Day. I might have let my punk snobbery convince me that Green Day have no business doing stadium tours, but when I set that aside, I thought: maybe this is where Green Day belong. They looked loose, comfortable, and entirely natural playing to a crowd of about 40,000. As they powered through their set, sounding urgent and inspired and truly fantastic the whole time, my initial cynicism was replaced with pride. Stadium rock can't be reserved for '60s and '70s bands forever; if someone (besides the Foo Fighters) is gonna step up, I'm glad it's Green Day who are taking the leap.
Unlike Weezer, who went overboard on new songs, Green Day only played one song released in the past decade and they thankfully played nothing off their dreadful 2020 album Father of All..., an album I refuse to believe actually exists. It's always disappointing to realize a band you love has run out of creative steam, but part of being a good stadium rock act is pleasing the crowd from start to finish, and Green Day did that. Even on the songs I don't care for as much, I couldn't deny that Green Day were firing on all cylinders. Unlike Weezer, whose cover of "Africa" was one of their most crowdpleasing moments, Green Day's classic rock cover (Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite") was the closest thing their set had to a dull moment. They could have easily replaced it with another original and had the crowd even more excited.
What Green Day did so well is that they made the stadium feel small. Outside of a few frills, they didn't cater their set to the larger venue. They just put on the show they've been putting on for years, and it just made sense. They mainly stuck to the hits, not really making any time for deep cuts like they did on their intentionally small club tour in 2016, but they still proved they could tap back into their early days without seeming like a nostalgia act. It's kind of amazing that all these years later, they're still covering Operation Ivy's "Knowledge," and still bringing some lucky kid up on stage to play guitar during it. When Op Ivy recorded that song back in 1989, there's no way they imagined that one day it'd be performed at stadiums. And to see Green Day do it so lovingly just feels like a win for the punk community at large.
I know it's easy to roast Green Day at this point in their career, and I'm sure I'll be guilty of doing so again after this, but when I walked out of Citi Field on Wednesday, the feeling I was most overwhelmingly left with was one of admiration. Green Day just know how to put on a really good show. They deserve to be headlining stadiums. They deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's easy to roll your eyes at some of the stuff they do, but when you see them play, they never fail to remind you that they're some of the best to ever do it.
Videos, setlists, and more pictures below...
photos by Amanda Hatfield
The Interrupters Setlist (via)
A Friend Like Me
By My Side (tour debut)
Take Back the Power
She Got Arrested
Bad Guy (Billie Eilish cover)
Sugar, We're Goin Down (Fall Out Boy cover)
Gave You Everything
On a Turntable
Broken World (tour debut)
Family (tour debut)
Weezer Setlist (via)
All the Good Ones
The End of the Game
My Name Is Jonas
Pork and Beans
Feels Like Summer
All My Favorite Songs
Undone - The Sweater Song
Surf Wax America
Sugar, We're Goin Down (Fall Out Boy cover) (Rivers Cuomo solo)
Island in the Sun
Africa (Toto cover)
California Snow (First verse & chrous)
Say It Ain't So
Green Day Setlist (via)
Know Your Enemy
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Welcome to Paradise
Hitchin' a Ride
Rock and Roll All Nite (KISS cover)
When I Come Around
Knowledge (Operation Ivy cover) (with fan on guitar)
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Jesus of Suburbia
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)