For more than a decade, Green Day has been perhaps the most explicitly political American stadium rock band.
Ever since 2004’s “American Idiot” — Green Day’s multi-platinum, Broadway-adapted album that skewered the George W. Bush era — the pop-punk group has grafted more or less leftist rhetoric into some of the defining rock songs of the decade.
The group’s latest, 2016’s “Revolution Radio,” continues in that vein, with the band leading a chant of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” at last year’s American Music Awards.
So it was a little startling when singer Billie Joe Armstrong told the Rose Bowl crowd Saturday that the night’s show would mostly avoid the increasingly divisive politics of the day.
“We’re sick of the negativity and the lies and corruption,” he told the assembled faithful in Pasadena. “Tonight is about compassion and love and truth. No more politicians are coming between us tonight.”
Was he giving up? Moving on? Or just admitting that rock ’n’ roll isn’t much of a force to combat what’s happening in our nation’s capital these days?
Whatever the intention, Green Day’s set list reaffirmed why the band pretty much stands alone in America. This is a band with roots in the radical Berkeley underground — the site of some of the most volatile alt-right and antifa clashes in America — but also one with the ability to fill the Rose Bowl.
For all the revolutionary rhetoric, Green Day is actually among the more stubborn rock bands to keep its stadium status today. The act never incorporated electronics or beatmaking into its biggest albums; Armstrong’s lyrics are narratively ambitious, but usually locked into the sneery-defiant-burnout stance that made the band stars in the ’90s.