Green Day – Milton Keynes Bowl 2005

It's a glorious day for Green Day's largest UK gig to date. There's no denying they're a mega-sized band now - the event's being filmed for a DVD and they're selling foam hands at the merch stalls!

The venue is perfect – a huge bowl where everyone – no matter what your height – can see the stage. The only drawback is the  toilets – hidden halfway around the back of the bowl, to preserve its picturesque appearance!

[r-zone1]First support Hard-Fi are faced with the unenviable prospect of competing with the beer tent for our attention – and lose, with more people in the booze and loo queues than appreciating the London buzz band. But it’s nothing personal – the more established Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday don’t fare much better.

[l-zone2]Green Day‘s pink rabbit is thirstier than we are as ‘it’ bounds on-stage downing several pints of (it can only be) Carling to raptuous applause. The band’s staggered entrance is proper stadium. First on is bassist Mike Dirnt followed by guitarist Jason White, drummer Tre Cool and finally frontman Billie Joe Armstrong – instruments held aloft.

[r-zone5]They pound straight into ‘American Idiot’, band and crowd taking to the air. ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ follows some pyrotechnics, before ‘Holiday’ incites a mass sing-a-long. Next up some classics for us older fans, including ‘Longview’, ‘She’, ‘Brain Stew’ and ‘Jaded’. Then it’s time for some good ole Green Day cabaret as Billie plucks a  foot-high child from the crowd, places him on-stage and… abandons the poor little soul in-front of 60,000 people! Of course, the kid gets the loudest cheer so far – no more so than when he is given a super-soaker and proceeds to indulge the front rows in a much-needed soaking before making full use of the ‘ego runway’ that stretches out into the centre of the crowd, arms aloft. It’s a faultless performance.

[l-zone4]Michael Jackson would never get away with this, let alone what follows. It’s time to form the latest version of Green Day Junior, as three random young boys are summoned on-stage to take the band’s instruments and back Billie Joe on a cover Skacore classic  ‘Knowledge’ by Operation Ivy. Again, it’s an impressive performance with the little drummer hurling himself into the pit and just when we thought we’d reached peak capacity on our envy, the guitarist is allowed to keep his instrument!

[r-zone3]Audience fever almost drowns out the the real band as ‘Basket Case’ kicks off, followed by ‘King for a Day’, with Billie prancing about in a cloak and crown. Freddie Mercury’s laughter is faintly audible as they slow it down with an emotive singalong that starts with ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, then the beautiful ‘Time of your Life’. Fittingly, they close the show, just like Queen did in this very bowl 23 years ago, with a triumphant ‘We are the Champions’. It’s a poignant moment in Green Day history. Watching them take to the giant outdoor stage they were made for, like a young bird to the sky, is a heart-warming experience.