Awesome as F*** by Green Day
Live albums are by nature very difficult to judge. One reason is that they tend to be horrible. And not just horrible in a general kind of way: somehow ethically, aesthetically and technologically horrible: more often than not they're cash-ins, excuses to fulfill old contracts, and even more often than not, poorly mixed, poorly recorded and poorly performed. There are rare exceptions: the magical, haunted Cheap Trick at Budokan—arguably the best thing they ever did; documenting a tough, energized band already on fire, stoked to an intense blaze by 12,000 screaming Japanese teenage girls—then of course Live at Leeds by The Who, and more recently, the memorable Live at Earls Court by Morrissey—though I couldn't name five others. Of course, these albums all had one thing in common: they documented what must have been incredible live performances; generally speaking the worst live albums are patched together from a number of mediocre concerts and, as luck would have it, Green Day's latest live release, Awesome as F*** is patched together from, count 'em, sixteen performances from their 21st Century Breakdown World Tour of 2009 and 2010 at venues all over the world. I am tempted to subtract points for this fact (and the title) alone, but I realize that the compilatory nature of the album will only prove detrimental if there is nothing particularly special about these performances—in other words, if they were merely chosen for the sake of the novelty of having "a" performance from every country on the tour, good or bad—or if some of them prove to be perfunctory. Then again, they might regain a few points as well, since this is strictly their best material...
...that is, with the exception of album opener "21st Century Breakdown" (performed in London): another of the embarrasing "let's be The Who" moments prevalent in the group's output since the release of Warning; for a boring song, the performance documented could actually be seen as fitting; insult is added to injury in the form of non-stop crowd cheering. From the same album, "Know Your Enemy" is Green Day's afterthought of a gift to Manchester; weaker than the previous track and perhaps an even more bored and boring performance suffering from some of the same sound problems as the previous: no bass—not even a bass drum—vaporous guitars and too much damn crowd noise; "East Jesus Nowhere" from Glasgow is virtually identical in terms of production value, but an even worse song—look, they've finally shut up—slightly sped-up punk-showtune "Holiday" wins points for Tré Cool's drumming as well as being one of the better songs from American Idiot; slightly distracting throughout the proceedings is Mike Dirnt's "crazy, drunk old man" hype-screaming which serves no real purpose. "¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)" from Dallas is another skippable track; "Cigarettes and Valentines," which is introduced by Dirnt as a "brand new song" is actually the eight year old title track of what was intended to be Green Day's follow up to Warning: when the master recordings of 20 tracks were stolen, the band decided to start from scratch, producing American Idiot; oddly, it is a better than some of the material on that album, invoking as it does the Dookie-era aesthetic, marrying it to the superior songwriting skills fomented by Billie Joe Armstrong in its wake.
"Going To Pasalaqua," "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" and "Geek Stink Breath"—but especially "Burnout," "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)," "When I Come Around" and "She"—are oldies but goodies, and they're given variously decent renditions here, so it's a shame that the recordings are so god awful. "21 Guns": it's pretty good, though I don't like how he uses his as ever undependable modal voice on the word "guns" here, as the falsetto on the original was more charming for its novelty on a Green Day record. "American Idiot" loses points for messing up all over the place—and the Montreal crowed can't even get the timing right when left to sing the verses—"Wake Me Up When September Ends" sounds like it was recorded in a neighboring studio; and, naturally, the pseudo-set ends with "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" the most horrible, overrated—just kidding.
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