For the last week or so, there had been sightings of Green Day at different restaurants and clubs in Tulsa – seemingly without reason. Word on the street is that the band had been renting the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa to do final rehearsals and prep for their long-awaited (and COVID-delayed) Hella Mega stadium tour. As a surprise for local fans and a way to do final warm-ups, Green Day announced a surprise club gig at the historic Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, running through some of their biggest hits (and a few surprises) for a very excited, fully-vaccinated (required!) crowd.
While the Hella Mega tour will find Green Day jaunting around the country with support acts Fall Out Boy and Weezer, this surprise Cain’s Ballroom gig capped at about 1500 people, giving the crowd a much more intimate experience than a typical Green Day show. For the first time since early 2020, Green Day hit the stage to perform a full-length gig, clearly eager to be back on the road and playing live after the world came to a screeching halt last year.
As fans waited out front to get through the lengthy vax-card check-in stations, fans who had already made it inside were bubbling with anticipation. It’s not every day that a band the size of Green Day plays a club gig, and it’s especially rare in a small market like Tulsa. The show sold out in about 10 minutes the day prior, and the day of the gig there were even people out front begging to get in who had driven across multiple state lines hoping to be able to hop on as someone’s plus one.
It took roughly two hours to get everyone inside the venue, and around 9:10 the lights dimmed and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” started playing over the speakers. Looking at the crowd, it was clear people were ready for their first live music experience after the last horrendous year, nothing but wall-to-wall smiles as anticipation continued to build.
Kicking off with “Welcome to Paradise” from the band’s seminal 1994 LP Dookie, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool immediately made it clear that they were in fine shape and ready to hit the road for a full-scale tour. The band sounded great, well-rehearsed and filled with pent-up energy after not being able to perform for a crowd since early 2020. They seemed to have not aged whatsoever since the last time I saw them (during the 21st Century Breakdown tour in 2010), still coming across youthful as they all near their 50th rotation around the sun.
They ran through a tight 85-minute set, perhaps a little shorter than a standard Green Day show but still packed with hits. As expected, the crowd ate up “When I Come Around” and “Holiday” but also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the live premiere of “Pollyanna”, which the band released online back in May of this year.
A cover of Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” served as one of the strongest sing-along moments of the night, while “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” seemed to inspire the entire crowd to start recording with their phones, surely an attempt to capture a moment of nostalgia from their high school or college years.
A somewhat surprising performance of “Scattered” from 1997’s Nimrod was one of my favorite moments of the night, with the band’s harmony work and power chords packing just as much of a punch as they did more than 20 years ago. The swinging drums and plunking bass of “Minority” were up next, which found the group encouraging the crowd to jump up and down, making the wooden floor of Cain’s Ballroom shake and bounce for one of the first times in the last year and a half. The show was cathartic, to say the least.
While requiring vax cards for the show had proven to be an extremely controversial decision in deep, deep red Oklahoma, it did seem to help people cut back and enjoy their selves in a group environment for the first time in a long time. It certainly felt good to be part of a crowd again.
Green Day was a huge part of my life in junior high and high school, and while I haven’t religiously followed the group since, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to catch them in such an intimate and unique environment. There were a few minor lyrical flubs and pacing issues, but overall the band put on a solid performance that served as a great taste for what fans can expect on the Hella Mega tour this summer.
The strangest part of the evening came at the end, where the band closed the set with the 9-minute “Jesus of Suburbia”. It sure felt like an encore was coming as the group quickly left the stage, with the road crew cleaning up a bit while the house lights stayed dimmed. Ten, then twenty minutes passed by with no movement on stage. Suddenly the house lights went up full blast, causing those remaining in the crowd to groan (and even toss out some angry booing). It was weird to say the least, especially as those at the front had scoped out the taped down setlist for the show and saw the band left off 9 songs they had been planning to play. Given how great the energy had been from both the band and the crowd, it’s not clear what happened to cut the show short, but ultimately most seemed to be very happy to have experienced a stadium-class rock show in a club-level environment.
Green Day’s Hella Mega tour is set to run through venues in the U.S. through September, bringing Fall Out Boy and Weezer along for the ride. Rest assured that at the very least, you can expect a great showing from Green Day.
Green Day – Cain’s Ballroom (7/20/21) Setlist:
Welcome to Paradise
2000 Light Years Away
Hitchin’ a Ride
Rock and Roll All Nite
When I Come Around
Going to Pasalacqua
Pollyanna (Live Debut)
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Jesus of Suburbia
Songs on setlist but not played: Geek Stink Breath, Christie Road, Nice Guys Finish Last, Armatage Shanks, J.A.R., She, Know Your Enemy, Bang Bang, American Idiot
All photos by Steven Anthony.
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