Review – American Idiot: The Musical

american-idiot-logo

“I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Had it not been for that intolerantly stupid quote seen above, I may have never come to see American Idiot: The Musical. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

In September of 2004 when American Idiot (the album) was released, I was one of the 267,000 people who bought it the week it came out. I didn’t have any extreme love or hate for the first single, but I did already own every other Green Day album and found it necessary to keep the collection current. I had previously read all the hype surrounding the record and the praise Billy Joe Armstrong was receiving for creating a concept album that was being hailed as the first ever “punk rock opera.” As for me, I probably would’ve been more impressed if the band would’ve released a cover album. I mean let’s face facts, even the best concept album could easily be called “a lackluster effort.” After all, the songwriters didn’t even have the motivation to tell more than one story. Those lazy bastards just wrote one song and turned it into an hour-long record!

Despite these things, I did my best to give the album an honest and unbiased listen. When I was done I had found what I thought were a few standout tracks (“St. Jimmy” and “Whatsername”) and I chalked American Idiot up as a solid release from a band that has truly never disappointed me. (Wow, I just realized that as I typed it.)

And then the insanity began.

Now, I understand that Green Day is by no means some fledgling little band trying to break out of the underground. Since 1994, Billy Joe & Co. have been staples on MTV and mainstream radio. They’ve sold millions of records and sustained a longevity that is surely coveted by any other band today. But even knowing all these things, I still had no inclination how much bigger Green Day could get.

As the album was released and 2004 bled into 2005, I was simply bombarded with single after single after single. All together, five separate songs were released from American Idiot. And from the insane regularity that each one was played on radio and MTV, you would’ve guessed that people were being paid for listening to them. All of sudden, these three guys in their mid-thirties started rocking heavy amounts of “guyliner” and quickly became poster children for a rebellious anti-George Bush youth. And that goddamn heart-shaped grenade from the album cover was everywhere. I’m fairly sure that Hot Topic adopted it as their official logo for a year or two.

As you may have figured out, the mid 2000s found me a bit burned out on Green Day, specifically American Idiot. When their next album, 21st Century Breakdown, was released, I was absolutely overjoyed that it wasn’t greeted with the absolute madness as the previous release. Even though Green Day was still one of the most popular bands around, it seemed that the hysteria had finally subsided.

And then in April of 2010, American Idiot: The Musical premiered on Broadway.

Now I don’t want to get into a debate about who or what is “punk rock,” but I think we can all agree that Broadway musicals are clearly not. And yes, I know that inevitably all of us are doomed to grow up and sellout in our own ways, but a musical? A Broadway musical? Really? Did The Ramones write an opera? Did the Sex Pistols perform ballet? No. They did not. And to be perfectly honest, hearing that American Idiot had become a musical did, in its own way, break my grenade-shaped heart.

But at the end of day, we all have to grow up. And as time passed, I actually learned to accept the fact that punk rock, albeit in a rather mutated form, had made its way to Broadway. I even started to embrace it a little. I realized that as my generation hits middle age, the world has no choice but to cater to what we want. And apparently we want good music in our commercials, epic comic book movies, and punk rock musicals. So maybe it wasn’t all bad. But for as much acceptance as I began to have for the situation; one thing was abundantly clear. I was not going to see that goddamn musical.

Then about a month ago, I was driving home from work when my local radio station announced they would be giving a prize to the first person to call in and answer a trivia question. I had no idea what the prize would be, but I called the station before the question was even asked (because I am a smartass at heart). And wouldn’t you know it, the line was ringing! I then turned the stereo up to hear the question:

“Who said ‘I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman’?”

Holy Shit! I knew it. I patiently waited about 20 seconds until the DJ picked up the phone.

“You got the answer?”

“Yup. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

“That is correct. You’ve just won two tickets to Green Day’s American Idiot: The Muscial

“What?”

Seeing as my wife was interested in seeing the show, I decided to put my vow to never see this aside and find out for myself just how bad this was.

So after 900 words, here is my official review of American Idiot: The Musical. I didn’t hate it.

In fact, since seeing the show I’ve actually gone back and revisited Amercian Idiot (the album), and subsequently have found a new appreciation for it; proving once and for all that I am a massive tool. And I most certainly am not “punk rock.”

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