Green Day tests new ground on way to "Breakdown"

Sun May 3, 2009 7:52pm EDT
 
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By Mitchell Peters

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt is fatigued from the three stage dives he took last night at Oakland, California's Uptown Nightclub.

For the final plunge, "I decided to climb up on the monitors and dive in from there," says the 36-year-old musician, who's also nursing a mild hangover. "I'm just feeling it today a little bit. But it was a good time."

The mid-April $20-ticket gig was the fourth installment of what drummer Tre Cool calls a "guerrilla Bay Area Green Day assault." In the days leading up to the tightly packed show -- the Uptown holds about 750 people -- the Oakland-based trio also played its forthcoming album, "21st Century Breakdown," from start to finish at the Independent and DNA Lounge in San Francisco and the newly opened Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.

The hometown gigs grew from the band's desire to break away from tedious rehearsals and test new material in front of an audience. "We've been deprived of playing live for so long that it was kind of a free-for-all, like we were playing as if our lives depended on it," singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong says. "It was kind of like playing your first show all over again."

The last-minute shows surprised Bay Area concert promoters. "An arena band like that doesn't usually show up at a nightclub, especially in their home base," says Larry Trujillo, co-owner of the Uptown. "You wouldn't see that from Madonna or U2."

'DESPERATE TIMES'

Awaiting the May 15 release of "21st Century Breakdown" (Reprise/Warner Bros.) are not only the band's longtime fans, but the younger audience that came aboard in 2004 with the release of "American Idiot."

A politically driven rock opera, "American Idiot" moved away from Green Day's routine three-chord punk anthems and into new depths of songwriting. And at a time when people worldwide were questioning the policies of President George W. Bush, the social and political messages behind the set helped Green Day earn its first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and nab Grammy Awards for best rock album and record of the year.   Continued...

 
<p>Members of the band Green Day (L-R) Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool and Billie Joe Armstrong accept their award at the 25th Anniversary Spirit of Liberty Awards presented by the People for the American Way in Beverly Hills, California October 10, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>