Back when it was announced in September 2019, the Hella Mega Tour featured a unique opportunity to see some of the biggest alt rock bands of the last 25 years on the same stage. With Green Day leading the pack, Fall Out Boy and Weezer were set to play each night together — that is, until yesterday morning, when Fall Out Boy announced that a member of their team had contracted COVID-19, and they would no longer be joining the New York and Boston stops.
The unfortunate reality of touring during a global pandemic (even when vaccinated) is beginning to make itself clear, and the absence of Fall Out Boy certainly disappointed many — all of a sudden, the Hella Mega Tour was seeming not so “Mega.” Still, the show goes on, and Green Day and Weezer had no issues stepping up to the plate at Citi Field last night (August 4th). Combination tours like Hella Mega don’t come around every year, and even with Fall Out Boys’ absence, Green Day and Weezer did their best to make that point known.
When the tour was initially announced, all three bands released new songs on the same day. For Weezer, that song was “The End of the Game,” a scorching power-pop track that would appear on their 15th studio album, Van Weezer. Before launching into it last night, frontman Rivers Cuomo said the band had written that song just to play it on this tour, to have an arena-rock anthem ready for everyone in the crowd to enjoy.
Otherwise, Weezer’s set mainly contained hits from classic eras like The Blue Album, but they also trotted out the fan-favorite “El Scorcho” (Cuomo gamely paused after singing the “I asked you to go to the Green Day concert” line, as the stadium erupted into what felt like a full 30 seconds of cheering) and their inescapable cover of Toto’s “Africa.” The earnestness from earlier cuts like “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Island in the Sun” also put everyone in high spirits.
Halfway through Weezer’s set, Cuomo also treated Fall Out Boy fans to a solo rendition of “Sugar We’re Going Down,” acknowledging their tourmates’ absence while giving the audience an opportunity to step outside of Weezer-ville and into something more spontaneous and intimate.
en Weezer’s teal and pink set was swapped out, twilight quickly rolled into darkness, and it was time for the headliner. Green Day set the tone for their set by playing both “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones as intro songs, ensuring that we would see epic, stadium sized rock songs and blistering, nostalgic punk songs from the California band.
When they finally took the stage — kicking things off with “American Idiot” and “Holiday” back-to-back — frontman Billie Joe Armstrong commanded that we put our phones away and experience human connection with one another, that after all this, “we need to sing together!” Armstrong remains a relentless performer, conjuring every ounce of energy to connect to the crowd, make faces, lead singalongs, and command us in every song and every chorus. At one point, he welcomed us to “The Church of Rock and Roll” — a fitting title for how much Armstrong’s enthusiasm resembled that of a preacher.
Across a solid 90 minutes and 21 songs, Green Day never really ran out of steam, punching up the setlist with delightful, underrated tracks like “She” and “Hitchin’ A Ride.” The songs from this era of Green Day certainly endure — before the group was were singing Bush-era anthems in stadiums, they were taking strong steps as artists in each of the four albums they released in the 1990s and laying the groundwork for a lasting career together.
On the other hand, politically-charged songs like “Minority” and cuts from American Idiot felt even more relevant last night than on their 2016/2017 Revolution Radio tour. Though their new tracks don’t attack these topics with the same level of specificity (they only played two songs from the last decade), Green Day’s early-millennial punk ethos has never been more appropriate to consider. Their predictions and assessments of American life throughout the ’90s and early 2000s were more controversial at the time of release, but certain sentiments ring remarkably true today, and echoing them in a stadium with thousands of rock-lovers was definitely cathartic.
If you’ve listened to any “alt rock” radio in the last 15 years, you know that Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer have been nearly inescapable. These bands are known for their seismic hits — and the sheer number of them designates these rock groups in a different class of 2021 legacy bands. Each of them may have new material that points to them running out of creative steam, but on stage, they know that their power lies in how happily people will sing along and connect.