Green Day Kick the Crap Out of the Spectrum 7-21-09

The church of rock and roll was certainly in session on this BALMY July evening.

Thousands of Philadelphians (and New Jerseyans too!!)  descended upon the soon-to-be-demolished Wachovia Spectrum on July 21st to witness Green Day literally shake the building to it’s foundation in one of the venue’s final shows.

Blasting through an intense set list that included tracks from the band’s newest release, “21st Century Breakdown,” (Reprise), Billie Joe Armstrong and company got the crowd to a fever pitch early and kept the energy high throughout the 2.5 hour show.


The ultimate showman, Armstrong never disappoints. The Green Day set was filled with crowd participation, cheering contests, the ever-ubiquitous “Eyyyyy Ohhhhhh’s,” squirting water guns, a leafblower fitted with a toilet paper roll which streamed TP high into the air above the frenzied crowd, and even a tee-shirt gun, firing tee shirts up into the nosebleed seats.

The massive digital screens on the stage set displayed cityscapes, old-school punk flyers, tall images of flames which were complimented by REAL fire at key junctures, and even a display of broken televisions stacked one on top of the other displaying live action to those in the back of the arena. The show was a complete sensory experience, sparing no expense to wow each and every concertgoer.

Standing in the back were folks closer to my own age, perhaps waiting for their sons or daughters to finish “mosh-pitting,” or just enjoying the show from the comfort (and cooler temperature) of the area near the soundboard.  I know that after climbing over the other photographers in the pit, I was soaked and just wanted to enjoy my NINE DOLLAR beer.

Throughout the show, Armstrong randomly pulled several lucky fans onto the catwalk with him to sing along to some of the band’s biggest hits. You could see the excitement dripping from the lucky few, just before they were to take a stage dive into the sweaty (and jealous) crowd below.

It’s hard to believe that this band has been doing this for so long. For me, as a longtime fan, as soon as that first chord sounds, I’m 15 again. This band holds special significance for me, because Green Day was the entire reason that I started photographing bands. Back when I was 15/16, I thought “Hey, I can do that, and someday I will photograph Green Day.”

Fast forward almost 15 years into the future (ouch… ) to me nervously standing in the pit before the band was to take the stage;  it was really a humbling moment.  My hands were sweaty and shaking and my heart was racing. It was imperative to me to get good shots from this show. They only tour every 4 or 5 years these days, so I wanted to make the most of this amazing opportunity. I also wanted that one shot for my apartment’s wall. It’s time I filled that space.

Whilst in the pit I met the two Idiot Club members who won the “Band Photographer for a Day” contest, grinning from ear to ear. I told them to smile big, and snapped their photo. Once I saw it, I laughed to myself. I don’t think they could possibly smile any bigger.

In past Green Day tour experiences, the setlists have been painfully similar. This tour has been different. The band has been changing it up and throwing the “oldheads” a bone, playing the obscure tracks we constantly clamor for. Thank you, by the way. We really appreciate it. There are some songs I never thought I’d hear, and on this tour, I’ve heard them. YAY!

Later, the entire band dressed in silly costumes to play “King for a Day,” from 1997’s Nimrod.  Donning a police cap and feather boa, Armstrong made the song a medley of classics – running from the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” to “Earth Angel,” “I’ll Be There,” and “Stand By Me.”

During the epic “21 Guns,” I took note of my surroundings. There I was, smack in the middle of my own personal music mecca, sweaty, sore, and blissfully happy, extending my arms each time the line “throw up your arms into the skies” was sung. This is what it’s all about, people. Confetti pouring down around me after being fired off through several stageside guns, it was like the Spectrum had become a giant snowglobe. This is my church and I hadn’t been in attendance for quite a while. It felt good.

On the last tour, the band formed another band on stage by pulling members out of the audience to play Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” Half expecting this to happen again, I rolled my eyes during the encore when Armstrong started asking the crowd “Who here can play guitar?”  To my pleasant surprise, instead of building a band on stage, the audience member selected was going to be responsible for carrying the guitar part for the 8 minute operatic “Jesus of Suburbia” from 2004’s multi-platinum American Idiot.

I thought it rather ambitious, and potentially painful if the person selected sucked. Not so. Derek Hensinger, 22, of Macungie, PA was selected, and he carried the song beautifully, at one point even mimicking a signature Armstrong stage “dance” maneuver. Armstrong caught Hensinger doing his “move” and seemed amused. I wished I cold have been photographing at that point, but I only had clearance for the first three songs. Hopefully some of Derek’s friends had their own cameras and snapped away. He really did a tremendous job.

After what felt like just a few minutes, the lights dimmed and the band left the stage. After a very brief pause, Armstrong returned to the stage alone to sing acoustically “The Words I Might Have Ate” (1992’s Kerplunk) “Give me Novocaine” from American Idiot, and closed with “Time of your life (Good Riddance)” also from Nimrod.

With a smile and a wave, he thanked the crowd and made his exit.

Soon after, the lights came up and my ears rang for the next 24 hours.

Worth it? Absolutely.

And this time, I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Catch Green Day when they come to your town. Check for tour information.

The night’s setlist:

21st Century Breakdown

Know Your Enemy

East Jesus Nowhere


Static Age

Before the Lobotomy

Are We the Waiting/St. Jimmy

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Hitchin’ a Ride

Brain Stew/Jaded


Basket Case


King for a Day

21 Guns

American Eulogy


American Idiot

Jesus of Suburbia


The Words I Might Have Ate

Give Me Novocaine

Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)

Oh, and lots and lots of Eyyyyy Ohhhh’s. 🙂


One Response to “Green Day Kick the Crap Out of the Spectrum 7-21-09”

  1. eve isk says:

    I got a real pleasure reading you.