How Green Day saved rock -- and their own career. The elder statesmen of pop-punk talk about longevity, Grammys, and crafting their smartest album yet: ''American Idiot''
Green Day
Credit: Green Day Photograph by Klaus Thymann

Inside the sold-out Sporthalle arena in Hamburg, Germany, the last notes of the Ramones’ ”Blitzkrieg Bop” fade into the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Green Day’s introductory music of choice. Before you can say ”Hey, ho, let’s go,” the band — singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, 32, bassist Mike Dirnt, 32, and drummer Tré Cool, 31 — tears into the snarling title track of its current album, American Idiot. ”Don’t want to be an American idiot,” bellows Armstrong. ”One nation controlled by the media.”

For most of the prior 24 hours, the media have been analyzing George W. Bush’s inaugural address, delivered the day before tonight’s concert. And though not a pundit per se, Armstrong isn’t shy about offering up his own commentary on Dubya. ”This song is a big F— YOU to George W. Bush,” he yells as an introduction to ”Holiday,” the soon-to-be third single from Idiot. The Hamburg crowd laps it up, roaring its endorsement and screaming along to politically charged lyrics like ”Zieg Heil to the President Gasman/Bombs away is your punishment” with enough gusto to make you wonder if there is any such thing as a Bush-supporting Green Day fan.

”It’s just important,” Armstrong later says, ”to be really outspoken.”

American Idiot
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