Review Summary: Utterly predictable, and in the end it's trite; I didn't have the time of my life.
If one was asked to describe Green Day's most recent live release, Awesome As F**k
, the word “sterile” would very likely be the most applicable term. To be fair, making a truly
excellent live album isn't easy, for a little of the energy seen onstage nearly always goes missing upon its transition into the studio. Moreover, live recordings never manage to capture everything
: that conspiratorial wink which the band's front-man delivered to the riotous group of fans located stage right; that accidental double bass kick committed by an utterly-exhausted drummer, and many more memorable occurrences besides - all are snuffed out by the necessity of digital editing. But even then, there seems to be something terribly wrong with Awesome As F**k
, mainly in that it seems completely mechanical and utterly contrived. This is the sound of a band switching to cruise control, hoping to arrive at its destination with as little incident as possible, but instead ends up falling asleep at the wheel - with disastrous consequences.
The live album opens with the utterly pedestrian "21st Century Breakdown"; here, Green Day appear to be content with merely going through their paces and serving up a performance that is exactly
identical to the one found on the original studio recording. Second track "Know Your Enemy" isn't much better either - it follows the shoddy example set by its predecessor, and as the song itself is perhaps the most mundane piece of recording that the band have ever cut to tape within the past decade, its inclusion on the album serves only to bore. This thematic lack of innovation continues for much of the album, with Billie Joe Armstrong's extent of improvisation seemingly being limited to an intermittent shouting of cliche live-show slogans ("Let's go!"; "Are you with me"!") at the crowd. But while there are occasional moments across the album where his rampant hooliganism works, the end result is, for the most part, incredibly annoying. This incoherent spewing of front-man garbage is, more often than not, the only thing new about the songs present herein, making them stick out like a decidedly unattractive sore thumb. "East Jesus Nowhere", which brings up the arrears of the opening triumvirate, treats us to yet another instance of a song that is strictly a gratuitous re-recording of the studio version and not an inch more.
That is not to say that there aren't a few worthwhile nuggets present herein though - some of the band's lesser singles and deeper album tracks - including "Burnout", "Going to Pasalacqua", "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)", and "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield"" provide some much-needed bite to an otherwise predictable setlist. "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)" updates the hard-nosed punk rock of the original while successfully retaining all its poignancy and verve. "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield"" is introduced as Armstrong's favourite song on Kerplunk
, and the demonic yells that the frontman provides during his performance certainly go some way towards justifing that rather hefty label. However, it is the previously unreleased "Cigarettes and Valentines" that is perhaps the biggest treat for fans on the entire record. Originally conceived as part of the proper follow-up to 2000's Warning
, the master recording of the song (and some twenty others) were famously stolen from the studio that the band were working in back in 2003. The number's hard, quick-tempoed punk style speaks to the zeitgeist of Nimrod
, and is a welcome glimpse down the boulevard of what-could-have-been.
Unfortunately, the album is all to quick to return to a very real sense of mediocrity within its final third. Even the gaggle of disoriented and stage-drunk fans screaming themselves hoarse during the chorus of "21 Guns" is not able to shield it from sounding painfully weak and shallow within a live setting. Elsewhere, other tracks are made to suffer through simple overplaying: it's hard to continue appreciating the novelty of a redneck number like "American Idiot" if you encounter it every other day, and even the colours of an evergreen like "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" are starting to run due to such callous usage. As Green Day aren't exactly short of alternative material - they do have a full eight albums (and then some) waiting in the wings, after all - it is safe to say that the only ingredient truly lacking is a bit of political will and some guts.
Much like its parent band - whose members are pushing forty but still insist on writing youth-charged anthems - Awesome As F**k
screams and rages hard against the inevitability of obsolescence but unfortunately comes up short. While Green Day themselves have thus far managed to (arguably) beat the clock by showing well-timed streaks of inventiveness, in order for their live recordings to achieve the same feat it is essential that the same sense of bravado so pervasive on albums like American Idiot
carry over to their shows as well. Unfortunately for now, just like in the case of 21st Century Breakdown
(which a certain Adam Downer noted to contain a sound "rooted firmly in the 20th century" and "features few to no breakdowns"), Green Day have once again come up with an album whose title is simply false advertising.