When Punk Rock Is More Patriotic Than The President

A night out with Green Day, Against Me!, and a nation seeking catharsis in ‘Troubled Times’

Green Day and Against Me! can’t check out of the real world, unread the headlines, or shake off the creeping dread that’s been weighing on them since November 9, and they don’t expect you to, either. Billie Joe Armstrong sings about this on Green Day's recent single “Troubled Times" — “Where’s the truth in the written word / If no one reads it?” — but in lieu of performing the song at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on March 15, he made a passionate plea directly to the band's fans.

“I’m so sick of turning on the news and seeing all this bullshit,” Armstrong shouted, while bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool riffed behind him. “Watching cable news, seeing it on your Facebook page, seeing it everywhere you look — there are conspiracies and lies and corruption sitting in our pockets right now. We can look at it anytime we want, just to piss us off. But guess what? I’m not gonna let some man in a suit and tie that’s WAY TOO LONG for him try to say that there’s only one type of America.”

The crowd of 18,000 roared.

“This is not about who’s conservative and who’s liberal, or what race you are," he continued. "This is not about what religion you are, or if you’re an atheist. This is about being together, everybody, here, tonight. We’re going to leave all this shit behind us. We’re going to rub up against each other. We’re going to look each other in the eyes. We’re going to sing together. We’re going to dance together. We’re going to fucking cry together. Goddamnit, this is an experience — and it’s all about unity.”

The Revolution Radio tour takes its name from Green Day’s twelfth studio album, which dropped a month before the election and put forth empowering, pacifist, and unflinching anthems in “Bang Bang,” “Still Breathing,” and “Troubled Times.” (These resonated with listeners, too: Revolution Radio was the top album in the country the week of its release.) This stretch of the jaunt, set to wrap on April 8 in San Diego, runs on a refreshed sense of political urgency from both Green Day and Against Me! Both bands are experienced in the fields of activism and speaking truth to power via power chords.

Green Day have been peppering their verses with portraits of conscientious objectors, soldiers returning home from war, and the scowl of abused authority since at least the George W. Bush–era polemics of American Idiot, long before Trump's rise fueled their latest album's lyrics. In the years since Against Me!'s 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, meanwhile, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace has become a more prominent voice against legislative bigotry, notably staring down North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom bill by burning her birth certificate onstage and condemning violence against the LGBTQ community in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre in her native Florida. Grace has excoriated Trump’s anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and championed self-love and acceptance in the face of adversity onstage at Barclays between cuts from Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

Armstrong called Trump’s xenophobic travel ban an “all-out assault on our civil liberties” following the executive order's signing, and Green Day left no room for interpretation with the lyric video for “Troubled Times,” which tied images of anti-Trump protests, Ku Klux Klan hoods, and "Make America Great Again" hats in a ball of barbed wire. All of which goes to show that Green Day and Against Me! couldn’t be more suitable tourmates at this moment in time — and that’s without taking their respective, superlative live shows into consideration, as they’re a perfect match on that front, too.

Armstrong’s mid-show screed was a worthy, intimate moment that turned up the voltage of the evening, especially when paired with the explosive (literally, thanks to Kiss-worthy levels of pyrotechnics) run of deep cuts and somehow-not-stale hits that followed. “Still Breathing” offered every bit of the release that familiar favorites from Dookie, Nimrod, and Warning did. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and the disenchantment of other American Idiot tracks felt sadly current. As a performer, Armstrong is spry and snarling, deranged and direct. He punches each chorus with the eternally flamboyant bite of Alice Cooper, if Alice Cooper had sought refuge in a skate park or DIY space instead of his infamous Sunset Strip dives three decades prior. This intensity makes Armstrong a reliable narrator for relevant angst, one who juggles the role of instigator, prankster flipping off the audience, and gleeful ringmaster, encouraging teenagers wearing braces and American Idiot t-shirts to crawl up onstage and take his mic for the rest of the song.

His antics are frenetic without careening off-course entirely, in that every song came back to his point from earlier in the night: You can’t learn if you don’t listen, and you can’t listen if you’re covering your ears and shoving your shaking head in the sand.

Before finishing her set with Against Me!, Laura Jane Grace gave the headliners a shout-out, noting that a Green Day show many years ago changed her life and set her on her current path — and that she wasn’t alone, even in that same venue: “I know that there’s at least one fuckin’ kid here that leaves this show, goes home, starts their own band, and changes the fuckin’ world.” The American dream as we know it may be under attack, but this American dream — the one sustained by brave bands that are ready to drown out the hate — is alive and well on the Revolution Radio tour.