Green Day Wembley Stadium 19th June 2010

I went with my kids and had a blast!


Amazingly, Green Day kick off pretty much on time and choose ‘Song of the Century’ and ’21st Century Breakdown’ as their openers. It felt good to be in their presence: even if that presence was the length of a football pitch away. I really wanted to enjoy this gig. I’ve waited a long time for it. I’m not a stadium concert type. It’s very difficult to feel a real emotional bond with someone who appears to be about the size of a pin head and so far away that there is a time-lag between their movements and the sounds they produce. But, it seems that with Green Day, I’ve missed the ‘intimate venue’ boat. I’m not quite sure why, as I’ve been a fan since I first heard ‘Pulling Teeth’  in 1996. Poor organisation I guess. I just never got round to getting to see them.


Wembley Stadium

So, Wembley Stadium it has to be.  And it’s not such a bad place to have to be, I conclude as long as you don’t have to sit and  watch the English football team kick its way out of a paper bag. I sit glued to my seat. I say glued to my seat because almost  ‘on cue’ with the demand from Billie-Joe Armstrong, lead singer and guitarist to ‘Stand up!’ I go ‘off’ (This is when my Parkinson’s meds suddenly stop working: which they do around six times a day, and I am immobile until the next dose. This means, depending on the  severity of the ‘off” Mild –  loss of fine motor control, can’t use my hands/fingers, to Severe Inability to walk. Speech affected. Difficulty making myself understood. A bit like how I used to be every friday and saturday night when I was a younger man. Actually, don’t be fooled or let anyone try to fool you, being drunk is nothing like Parkinson’s or vice versa. Anyway, enough of that. This particular ‘off’ comes in at about point 6 on the Mild – Severe scale. ) Unfortunately, as everyone else is on their feet it means that for about half an hour all I had to look at was the backside of the bloke in front. Hmmmmmm… I’m just grateful (How crap is this going to sound?) that he is not a teenager, so at least I’m spared the ‘half-mast and droopy drawers look’. Thankfully, our heroes play for three hours, give or take a few minutes, so I didn’t feel too bad about having  sound but no vision for about eight or nine songs.

I must admit I had a bit of a ‘wobble’ during the week, over whether or not I’d be able to make it. I seem to have suffered another of my periodic downturns. Tickets were bought back in September, when I was on a bit more of an even keel. Therefore I hadn’t requested any special disabled facilities.  My mind starts to wander quite randomly as I patiently wait for the drugs to do their tricks. The stadium is clean, it’s comfortable – even for an old crock like me;  the stewards look like they might know what to do with me should anything untoward happen as a result of the PD. Briefly, my thoughts turn to the iconic Wembley Stadium #1 and in particular the badly tiled walls of red around the bath and showers in the players’ dressing room and the (apologies …) river of urine that once followed me down one of the east stairwells as I nipped out to find a drink during one of the  early ’80s Charity Shield matches. Forget which. Wembley Stadium #2 is infinately better. Don’t be taken in by any of that romantic horseshit about the wonders of the old stadium, by the time of my last visit it was a khazi.

All of this is of no interest

All of this is of no interest whatsoever to Mike Dirnt (bass) and Tre´Cool (sticks) who along with Billie-Joe Armstrong are Green Day. The band emerged from the California Punk scene in 1987  and eight albums later are here again in the UK, promoting the latest, ’21st Century Breakdown’. I know they are augmented on stage by three touring semi-band members, whose names, spookily all begin with ‘J’, and possibly backing tracks, but they do make a great 3 – piece sound. Unfortunately, it all gets a bit lost inside Wembley. Don’t get me wrong, it’s punchy and loud, but I  didn’t feel it. Not like with Iggy. He was knocking at my chest wall. I am begining to return to something approaching humanity again when I hear: ‘Who wants some Old School Green Day?’

Best bit: the flawless ‘Basket Case’

Now that sounds just the tonic; and with that, and the surprise comment ‘The old songs are better anyway’ Armstrong ushers in what is, for me the best part of the gig and includes favourites ‘Burnout’,  ‘Welcome To Paradise’,  ‘When I Come Around’, ‘Longview’ and the flawless ‘Basket Case’. All from the breakthrough album ‘Dookie’ (1994) in my view their best. Getting a game young banana out of the audience and up on to the stage to sing the notorious ‘Longview’ seemed quite a hoot. In fact, the young man in question – who gave his name as Rufus – was actually pretty good. He certainly cut the right shapes even if he was left wanting in the vocal department. Still, I would have prefered to hear Billie-Joe sing it, however – or even better, they had chosen me ….!

Stars in their Eyes

I could have done without the ‘Stars in their Eyes’ interlude, which comprised the band inexplicably playing versions of  Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. Then later ‘Shout’ Lulu, featuring Tre´Cool in drag – truly surreal. ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ Eric Idle’s finest hour, from The Life of Brian’, The Undertones’  ‘Teenage Kicks’,  Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ ‘Paint It Black” and ‘Hey Jude’: I forget the name of the band …. I can only assume that it was some kind of reference to to the music that has shaped the Green Day sound. If so, a somewhat uninspiring selection I think personally, but then I never liked of any of them, except ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘Shout’ and of course ‘ Bright Side of Life’.

American Idiot

The gig works its way toward conclusion with a great example of community singing as the Wembley crowd carries ‘American Idiot’ for the first verse .. and is bang on! While ‘Wake me up when September ends’ reminds me what a fine record – sorry CD and particular family favourite  ‘American Idiot’ is.

Good Riddance

As is only fitting, ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ closes and the general opinion from those around me is that Green Day had done the job. An opinion supported by almost everybody I hear on the long, tortuous trail out of the stadium in search of that most prized of trophies in Wembley – a legitimate space in which to stop a motor vehicle, without being descended upon by rabid, ticket-wielding traffic wardens.

And so to summarise, I went with my kids and had a blast!

Now the bad news. There are couple of things I need to get off my chest.

Foo Fighters vs. Green Day

I must stress that what follows is not an attempt to compare Green Day and the Foo Fighters but it is impossible not to draw parallels. June 6 2008 headline in NME: ‘Foo Fighters play ‘biggest ever show’ at Wembley Stadium’. And on June 20th 2010: ‘Green Day play the biggest show of their ‘fucking lives’ at London’s Wembley Stadium’ Green Day lead singer Billie-Joe Armstrong announced: ‘”This is the biggest fucking show we have ever had in our lives. This is going to be the best rock ‘n’ roll show Wembley has ever seen.” (rock ‘n’ roll show? I thought I”d bought tickets to see Green Day play live? I guess this was the ‘Stars in their Eyes’ bit …) Likewise, Dave Grohl announced during the Foo Fighters’ gig something along the lines that it was going to be their best gig ever, the one ‘people will still be talking about in’ (was it 50 years’ time? Surely not?) Well, for a long time anyway. (Come to think of it how did he know this before it was even over?) Billie-Joe: “I tell you one thing, I’m going to remember this for the rest of my fucking life” They both continued to tell us  how much  they loved us and how much England meant to them… I think you get the picture … Now I think musicians ought to tread a little carefully here. Okay, of course I realise that during a gig, performers are often  carried away on waves of emotion us mere mortals cannot begin to imagine and so are liable to say – or sing things they might later wish they hadn’t.  However, they do need to allow their audiences the space to make up their own minds. There was a sense in which at both of these gigs, I felt as if I was repeatedly being told how big and massive and great it was. If I were cynical I might think, all part of the pre-packaging of a DVD box set planned to hit the  market: ooooohh, say about christmas time?

Call and Response

‘I said a-Heeyyy-Ohhhhh,  a-Heeyyyy- Ohhhh. I said a-Heeyyyy-Ohhhh  a-Heeyyyy- Ohhhh. ….’ Now I have a real problem  with  this:  Billie – Joe and Green Day’s choice of call-and-response. Intended, I expect to involve the audience. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the audience old enough to remember that its previous exponent was a certain Gordon Sumner with his band of bleached ‘Punk Wannabees’ the Police. And look what happened to him. Sting made pots of money – but apart from that: he’s a professional Geordie who never goes or lives there, wears Arran sweaters in the summer, has grown silly face-lace which makes him look like a tramp. He knits his own squiddly diddly folk music, much to the annoyance of those who have been writing and playing the stuff in pubs, clubs and, well … pubs and clubs for years; comes on telly to mystically tell us that ‘Autumn is a time for renewal …’ Or somesuch bollocks, and laughingly tells us that pubs and clubs are the lifeblood of music. (Seen his latest tour schedule?) So … don’t say I didn’t warn you, Billie-Joe, Mike, Tre´. Do something about it before it’s too late. Also, as if further criticsm were necessary although this probably says more about me than anything. Control over my (and quite probably many other audience members’) impulsive side is stretched to the limit, as I try to avoid calling back at the appropriate point:

“Daylight come and we wan’ go home …’

Set list:

‘Song of the Century’
’21st Century Breakdown’
‘Know Your Enemy’
‘East Jesus Nowhere’
‘The Static Age’
‘Give Me Novacaine’
‘Are We The Waiting’
‘St. Jimmy’
‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’
‘Nice Guys Finish Last’
‘Geek Stink Breath’
‘Dominated Love Slave’
‘Hitchin’ A Ride’
‘Welcome To Paradise ‘
‘When I Come Around’
‘Iron Man’/’Sweet Child O’ Mine’/’Highway To Hell’
‘Brain Stew’
‘Panic Song’
‘Basket Case’
‘King For A Day’
‘Shout’/’Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’/’Teenage Kicks’/'(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’/’Hey Jude’/’Paint It Black’
’21 Guns’
‘American Idiot’
‘Jesus Of Suburbia’
‘When It’s Time’
‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’
‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’

Todd Rundgren. Hammersmith Apollo 6th Feb 2010


I went to see Todd Rundgren. Not everybody’s cup of tea I know, but his complete understanding of the dynamics of a three minute pop song, his ability as a producer sometimes to ‘get a lot out of a little’ (Meatloaf)  and his longevity without sliding into self-parody suggest he’s doing something right.

Rundgren is a musician who has been a particular favourite of mine since the late ’70s. Funnily enough it was Alan (“Alright?!”) ‘Fluff’ Freeman who proved to be the link. Before Punk, like thousands of other ‘lost souls’ I used to listen to the mainly turgid shite that he played on his Saturday afternoon Radio One ‘Prog Rock’ show, bless him.

I say ‘lost souls’ because, at the younger end of his audience, I think many,  like me listened, almost out of duty. There  wasn’t anything else. We were just waiting … That’s why when Punk came along, we were off! Barclay James Harvest, Tangerine Dream  and Yes? Fuck off! I want to listen to The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs and the Pistols.

Well, anyway ‘Fluff’ had a jingle he used to play which I couldn’t get out of my head. It was a snippet of a song.  It was clearly live: you could tell by the ambience and which featured what sounded like the chorus to a song sung a-capella,  the audience joining in whilst clapping a slow heavy rhythm along to it. It fascinated me. As well as sounding ‘live’ it sounded ‘alive’ like real people at a real gig.

It took me a while. None of my mates were into Rundgren, so none of them recognised it, but eventually I did track it down. It appeared to be “One More Victory” on a live album, “Another Live”. So on the strength of ‘Fluff’s few snatched seconds, I bought it, second  hand mail order from Cob Records in Wales, and that was it. I still have it. If you are able to stomach the bizarre  band photos which seem to depict a group of cross-dressing Mafiosi and Rundgren’s occasional self-indulgences, is a great record. One which for me, sits comfortably alongside other favourites from the same period: “The Modern Dance” Pere Ubu, “Natty Dread”,  The Wailers,  “Never Mind The Bollocks”, The Pistols and “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Songs of Christmas”

And so, to Saturday night, when Rundgren performed his ground-breaking oddity “A Wizard A True Star” in its entirety (at the time, he was making his money producing, and was thus able to make the record he wanted to make rather than the record company.) It is an eclectic and ideosyncratic stream of consciousness. On tour here in the UK in 2008, his promoter  mentioned that the album had been cited by a number of up and coming young musicians as an influence, and suggested a one off performance.

And what a performance!

He was brilliant! A top drawer gig from a genuine Pop music genius. Moving, funny, sophisticated, absurd, tender. A night for the soul as well as the dancing shoes.

© Andy Daly  2010

If You Only Ever Read One Book

The Father I Had

by Martin Townsend

Bantam Press 2007  

If you only ever read one book in your life …

… Make sure it is this one.

It’s a gem, which tells the  story of the Townsend family and in particular the relationship between eldest son, Martin and his Bi-Polar/Manic-Depressive father. Achingly sad, but genuinely very funny in places, it tackles the issue of living with a person who has mental health difficulties and the impact that this has on family life, head-on.

Not quite the mindless holiday reading you were hoping for? Do yourself a favour, put down the Danielle Steel and give this a go. It will take you – I almost said …’on a roller-coaster emotional ride’  But apart from being an awful cliché, it suggests something which is much less subtle: faster, noiser, hysterical. No,…this book will take you on an emotional voyage that I guarantee you will not forget in a hurry; and is moreover, one from which you will return with a greater understanding of the strength of the Human Spirit, its resilience and capacity for love.

“The Father I Had” allows you the priviledge of  a window into the life of a remarkable family. Its daily battles with ignorance, prejudice, often, an intransigent Heath Service; and most poignant of all its attempts to be as normal a family as possible are all thrown into sharp focus via Townsend’s writing. You share the family’s happinesses, their laughter and their pride, just as keenly as you feel their sorrows, sometimes despair, but never hoplessness at their predicament. All set against the backdrop of North West London in the 60s, 70s and 80s which is painted, it must be said with unnerving accuracy and a keen eye (and ear) for the sort of detail which will strike a chord with those who lived through the same period.

Don’t be put off. This is not some doomy tome which will end its days stopping the kitchen door or propping the window with the broken sash. Far from it, for despite its uncompromising subject, I believe Townsend’s book will leave you uplifted, and enlightened and maybe – as it did me – cause you to look at relationships in your own life from an altogether different perspective.

© Andy Daly  2010

Chuck Berry

I went with My Mate Bill to see Chuck Berry. He played at the Hackney Empire: one of those sumptious old theatres clearly in need of some TLC. It is kind of like an inside-out wedding cake painted by a three year old. In fact I spent a lot of time, come to think of it, trying to work who was the older, Chuck Berry or The Hackney Empire. The Empire’s upholstery is definitely in worse shape, but then it is easier to park round the back of Chuck Berry.

© Andy Daly  2010