“We’re playing a lot of new songs,” Billie Joe Armstrong acknowledged about a third of the way through Green Day‘s intimate New York City show last night. “People hang onto that shit like it’s a sacred cow. I say fuck it – cows are meant to be eaten.” And so, much like the band’s last-minute Los Angeles show in August, last night’s surprise gig on the East Coast served as a test run of sorts for Green Day’s upcoming album, with about half of the set list consisting of new material. The show was also being documented for a film about the band’s creative process on the new album.
The show at New York City’s 300-person capacity Studio at Webster Hall was announced Wednesday morning, and $20 tickets quickly sold out, with offers climbing into the hundreds of dollars on Craigslist. While Armstrong acknowledged the next Green Day album technically doesn’t exist yet, last night’s performance showcased songs that are certainly stadium-ready. The sound of last night’s set continues the lush arrangements of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, incorporating tight harmonies, big hooks and power guitars. On the new material, though, lyrics seemed less about making a big statement and more about a straightforward assessment: “Wow, That’s Loud” and “Make Out Party” leave little question as to their subject matter. The former was an up-tempo tune with plenty of catchy guitar riffs; while Armstrong introduced the latter as a slow dance, it had more of a gritty sexual drive that found Armstrong spitting out the lyrics at points.
Other new music included the blistering Ramones-tinged “Let Yourself Go” (“Shut your mouth ’cause you’re talking too much and I don’t give a fuck anyway”), the driving beat and sing-along chorus of “Carpe Diem,” and the strut of “Oh Love.” After focusing on new material for over an hour (plus Elvis cover of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and three raucous renditions of the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments,” just ’cause), Green Day returned to the stage to tear through a collection of fan favorites. The mood immediately shifted – while the crowd had listened enthusiastically to the newer songs, the tiny room had the feel of an early-era Green Day performance as soon as they launched into “Murder City.” “Letterbomb,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Geek Stink Breath,” “She,” “Paradise” and “2000 Light Years Away” followed in quick succession, each generating a furious crowd energy to match the band’s playing.
In addition to an intimate performance, the show was billed as a “Halloween Party and Concert” and Green Day did not disappoint. When they took the stage at 11:45 p.m. Armstrong channeled Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, Tre Cool wore a pink fairy dress and blonde wig, and Mike Dirnt sported all black and zombie make-up. At one point, Armstrong acknowledged an Edward Cullen look-a-like in the crowd (and rumors that Robert Pattinson was Armstrong’s pick for a role in the American Idiot film), joking, “Thanks for trying out for the American Idiot movie. But I’m sorry, you just didn’t make the cut.”
Still, Armstrong and Co. embraced their real American Idiot Broadway family during the night: three-fourths of the opening band starred in the show (John Gallagher, Jr., Michael Esper and Gerard Canonico) and the night’s set open and closed with a cover of “Monster Mash” with backing help from the show’s Rebecca Naomi Jones and Alysha Umphress. After reciting the lyrics from “Monster Mash” to close the show, Armstrong bid the audience good-night with a simple, yet characteristic, “You’re all quite welcome” and walked off stage.