Milwaukee Green Day fans have a right to be mad at the band for skipping over the city the past 17 years.
But they returned Wednesday with a hell of a consolation prize: a four-hour show with Fall Out Boy and Weezer, as part of the Hella Mega Tour at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, to kick off Summerfest.
Exclusively playing stadiums — aside from Summerfest’s amphitheater — this is the most stacked lineup of any rock tour in 2021. And there was no dispute: Green Day was the best band of the night, by far.
Early in the band’s 95-minute set Wednesday, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong practically pleaded with the crowd to put down their phones and enjoy the togetherness, to live in the moment. In turn, Green Day gave their fans at least a dozen moments they’ll never forget.
There was Armstrong jamming on electric guitar from behind his head for explosive show opener “American Idiot.” For the show’s end, he performed “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” solo on acoustic guitar, shutting his eyes and embracing the bliss of an otherworldly, note-stuffed solo. Somewhere in the middle there was “Minority,” with Armstrong again breaking out into an unexpected guitar solo — this time, with traces of Chuck Berry — before whipping out a harmonica for some “Thunder Road”-esque blowing.
But Green Day’s set wasn’t only about Armstrong. Drummer Tré Cool lived up to his stage name, maintaining his composure even as his sticks went flying for the breakneck punk opus “St. Jimmy.” Bassist Mike Dirnt spun around and banged his head and wagged his tongue, a video camera attached to his Fender for “Longview” offering an electric close-up of the man in action.
And a complete stranger earned some of the strongest cheers of the night, when Armstrong made a call-out for a guitarist from the crowd during “Knowledge.”
It’s become a rite of passage at Green Day shows. One fan had a sign claiming they could shred like Van Halen; another held up a sign claiming they traveled more than 2,000 miles for the show. After much deliberation, Armstrong found a fan who lived up to the occasion — although he was so excited he forgot to face the crowd while he was shredding — culminating with the guest guitarist diving into the crowd for the start of “Basket Case.”
Armstrong was such a good hype man, and the band backing him so combustible, that even a corny song like “Pollyanna” sounded splendid Wednesday. And for any KISS fans in the crowd lamenting the band’s postponement of Sunday’s Milwaukee show, Green Day cheered them up with a bombastic take of “Rock and Roll All Nite,” complete with a roadie in a Gene Simmons mask on tambourine.
Summerfest 2021 lineup includes Jonas Brothers, Chance The Rapper, Miley Cyrus, 90 other headliners
In a 21-song set stuffed with hits — including “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” — Armstrong understood that the unified screams of thousands, following such a prolonged period of isolation, are just as exciting as any rock classic.
During “Hitchin’ a Ride,” Armstrong conducted a cheer-off between different sections of the crowd — then feigned disappointment, sitting on the stage, forlorn face in his hands, when they didn’t meet his high standards.
That naturally got the crowd going, and over the powerful cheers — a potent moment of togetherness — Armstrong’s eyes went wild as he hoisted his shaking arms toward the heavens, like Dr. Frankenstein after his creature comes to life.
“Wisconsin, you kick (expletive) ass,” Armstrong said after the night’s third song “Know Your Enemy.”
Fall Out Boy celebrate their hits — and Joe Trohman’s birthday
Wednesday night, fans got a chance to hear some of their more recent hits, like the stadium-rousing “Centuries” and “The Munsters”-referencing “Uma Thurman.”
Since reuniting, Fall Out Boy relinquished some pop-punk territory for electronic production to stay relevant, although pop punk is huge again, so a return to the band’s roots would be welcome.
Wednesday’s show was essentially that, thanks largely to Hurley’s powerhouse drumming, with belting, sweat-soaked frontman Patrick Stump matching that intensity, even when channeling Elton John for the smartphone light-waving ballad “Save Rock and Roll.”
Wednesday was also guitarist Joe Trohman’s 37th birthday, so Wentz led the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” singalong. The crew presented him with a cupcake, but with bugs flying all over the stage, he smartly saved it for later.
Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo honors ’80s rock
With black-frame glasses, thick mustache, a mullet, bright yellow and turquoise nail polish and, initially, a metal-studded black leather jacket, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo certainly stood out Wednesday, like Ned Flanders fronting a Whitesnake tribute band.
But as ridiculous as he looked, Weezer was ridiculously fun, and it was an appropriate visual for the hourlong set’s devil-may-care attitude and hair-band infatuation.
Beyond ’80s-style rockers “Hero” and “The End of the Game” from new album “Van Weezer,” Cuomo honored the era with radical ’80s-style guitar solos for their ‘90s hits “My Name Is Jonas” and “Undone — The Sweater Song,” and assisted Patrick Wilson’s drum jam for the band’s take of Toto’s “Africa.”
Wrapping it up with a joyful singalong to “Buddy Holly” — you no doubt recall the “Happy Days”-themed music video — a mic drop simply wouldn’t suffice. So Cuomo opted for a mic-stand drop.
COVID is delaying music and movies: You’ll have to wait for ‘Top Gun 2,’ Doobie Brothers and more
KennyHoopla, from Wisconsin, opens
The Interrupters have been opening other dates of the “Hella Mega Tour,” but Summerfest got something special: pop punk up-and-comer KennyHoopla, who recently released an album with Travis Barker. With body spins and backflips, he seemed gassed at parts of the half-hour set, but he was clearly giving it his all, the go-for-broke energy compensating for ear-monitor issues and some shaky singing. You can catch him at Summerfest again, at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Generac Power Stage.
1. “American Idiot”
3. “Know Your Enemy”
5. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
7. “Welcome to Paradise”
8. “Hitchin’ a Ride”
9. “Rock and Roll All Nite”
10. “Brain Stew”
11. “St. Jimmy”
12. “When I Come Around”
13. “21 Guns”
16. “Basket Case”
18. “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
19. “Still Breathing”
20. “Jesus of Suburbia”
21. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”
Fall Out Boy
1. “The Phoenix”
2. “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
4. “Uma Thurman”
5. “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy”
6. “Save Rock and Roll”
7. “The Last of the Real Ones”
8. “Dance, Dance”
9. “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me'”
10. “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race”
11. “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)”
12. “I Don’t Care”
13. “Thnks fr th Mmrs”
2. “Hash Pipe”
3. “All The Good Ones”
4. “Beverly Hills”
5. “The End of the Game”
6. “My Name is Jonas”
7. “Pork and Beans”
8. “Feels Like Summer”
9. “All My Favorite Songs”
10. “Undone — The Sweater Song”
11. “Surf Wax America”
12. “El Scorcho”
13. “Island in the Sun”
15. “California Snow”
16. “Say It Ain’t So”
17. “Buddy Holly”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Summerfest 2021 festival: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer kick it off