It was a sad, sad day in my history this week. Please, bow your head in a moment of silence for my youth. Time of death; Tuesday, June 4th, 7:41pm while attending Broadway San Jose’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot. The exact moment was accompanied by many flashing lights and marked by my realization that the music, the very same music that took the 11 years spanning my youngest sister and my oldest brother and seamlessly bonded us in head banging solidarity for years, was in fact… too freakin’ loud.
That’s right my friends, my alter-ego, the 90’s stage diving, rock star rebel inside me died a little this week when, despite a great set list of songs, strong vocals, creative staging and plenty of spectacle, I simply couldn’t get over the fact that it was just too loud. In a matter of minutes, I felt myself age decades. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t without a fight, my childhood went kicking and screaming into “old” but even so, no one could have heard it over the ear-splitting volume inside the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.
The previously plagued venue when it comes to sound has not been a problem for me all season and the engineers have addressed every kind of music genre and logistical challenge with regard to sound prior to Tuesday. There were balance issues, a bit of feedback which I THINK was unintentional and another “I’ve become my parents” moment had me thinking, if I didn’t KNOW most of these lyrics, I would have NO idea what they were saying. With hardly any spoken words and the sound being what it was, I did get lost a bit on what I feel instinctively was a much deeper, more satirical, more political and more compelling piece than I experienced on Tuesday.
What I did like was the music itself. And, while at first I longed for Billie Joe Armstrong to sing his lyrics in his distinctive voice exclusively, the cast won me over with their commitment and strength. By the end of the show I feel they owned the songs and weren’t simply covering them. That’s a commendable task to take on something iconic and make it work, but it would have honestly been exponentially better had they just taken it down a few decibels. The handful of acoustic/faux acoustic songs were near perfection and still had all the angst and rage and deprivation needed to give the piece momentum and depth without being overbearing.
I also gotta give a big concert fist pump to the Cello on stage, I love you man! If there were a lobby group for more rock cello in the world, I’d totally donate. Really, all of the artists on stage were stellar; their vehicle was just a bit, what’s the word…ah yes, loud.
While I admired the technical set up with regard to projections, live feed and video/media, suffice to say the “overkill” that was so central a theme to the plot was a bit overwhelming. Mission accomplished, message received! No doubt I absorbed more of the imagery subliminally than I did consciously, but there were several VERY cool, funny and brilliant symbolic visuals that I quite enjoyed.
Here’s what you need to enjoy this show.
1) Like Green Day, if you don’t like this music, I honestly don’t know how you are going to like this show
2) Get seats in row 13 or higher or in the balcony
3) Bring earplugs possibly
4) Study up on the lyrics beforehand, just so it’s not a distraction if you can’t understand all of them in real-time
5) Don’t stress about a linear plot, it’s deep, emotional, you might miss stuff, but don’t stress about it, pay more attention to the visuals provided and the beat.
If you can get over the fact that it’s less of a “Broadway Musical” or even a “Rock Opera” and more of a 90 minute (did I mention loud) Green Day music video mixed with a little missed placed/trying too hard “So You Think You Can Dance” choreography, then you’ll enjoy it a lot more. 3 ½ studded jewels out of 5 in the review tiara from me for a show that I wanted to be great, but instead was more deafening. Green Day’s American Idiot, plays through Sunday, June 9th only at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.