Sunday, 7 August 2016

Taking up residence in the Idiot Nation.

I recently purchased the album American Idiot by Green Day. As in, I went into HMV and bought the actual physical CD in its plastic case, with security wrapping around it and a track list on the back. I did that. I took it home and ripped off the packaging and put it in my laptop's disc drive. Now all of that, that series of events, that is retro in the extreme, no? Well, it seemed fitting. I couldn't just click and download this particular album. I had to have it in my modest 'miscellaneous CDs' box on the shelf by my bed – although now I'm driving again it'll have to go in the car! – and I had to take my time bringing it home and putting it onto my iPod. I had to make it a ceremonial moment. Because, my friends, what I'm getting at here in this seemingly endless paragraph of nonsense is...this album is important to me. 


The reason I bought my own copy of American Idiot, finally, was because I had booked in to see the epic stage show at the Arts Theatre in London. 

But I'll get to that in a minute. First, let's go back in time and hear why Gracie loves the old school Green Day so freakin' much.

This album followed me around as a teenager. And has done some more as an adult. Although I never owned it myself, all of my friends seemed to. And every 'emo kid', 'scene kid' at my school, hell, even the chavs loved it. It was played in classrooms on Sony Eriksson phones before the teacher came in, and when we were heading home to chat to each other some more on MSN Messenger. My best friend would often nudge me in Maths classes and sing quietly, calling me an Australian Idiot, and we'd giggle. The only song I could ever play on electric guitar, it seemed, was Wake Me Up When September EndsSome family friends had a cracking mini music festival in their back garden for a few years in a row, and one of the acts sang a mash-up of Green Day and Oasis. 
At 16, my first boyfriend and I would find that Boulevard of Broken Dreams would inexplicably always come on the iPod speakers beside his bed as we laid there, cramped and cuddling, after a solid 10 minutes of sexy time.
When I had just turned 19 I went to my first (and last) music festival, Reading 2012. I camped with my not-boyfriend (not-but-kinda-was) and other lovely friends; we got Early Bird tickets and were there Wednesday to Sunday. It was a weird and slightly hideous experience generally, but a highlight was when Green Day took to the 'secret stage' or whatever it was as a surprise act. We were knocking back beers at 10am Friday when suddenly we heard the unmistakable guitar strum ring out across the campsite. We tore off immediately because we all needed to see Billy Joe in the flesh and let our inner teen selves rock out. 
The glee club at my uni (no, I was not part of that, as if) sang Whatshername at their end of year showcase, and I fancied the guy who led it. 
Second year of uni, still 19, I had a disastrously anti-climatic one-nighter with a guy who'd stopped in on his way home from seeing the original production in London. When I stupidly asked 'So it's a jukebox musical? Is it like a Mamma Mia thing? Like, a band, in a musical?' he replied: 'yeah sure, take Mamma Mia, kick it in the balls, and you're almost there with this show.' 

Aha, this brings me to the show. A few friends of mine have seen it, including my gal Clare. I've heard nothing but rave reviews. I was always interested, I always peered at the posters outside the Arts Theatre when walking past into Orbital Comics. Nothing spurred me into buying a ticket, that is until...Newton. Ah, that lovely fella. I saw him live recently for the second time and he'd just announced he was taking over the role of Johnny on the tour – alas, none of the tour dates worked for me and every show was a couple million miles away from me, it wasn't meant to be. But then they announced they'd return to London and BOOM, I was there. 


Shout-out to my dedicated and excellent theatre buddy Jim @YAYeahYeah, he is a wizard when it comes to theatre trips and tickets. I don't know how he did it, but we got Row D seats for £20 each. Pretty darn sweet. 
So the first time I saw this show, Newton wasn't performing due to illness. I had the weirdest feeling as we entered the theatre, almost as if I knew - even though I didn't know for sure...it was a nasty premonition, really. Sure enough, there were posters up saying the role of Johnny would be played by Lawrence Libor that night. I felt a little deflated (and actually decided right there and then that I simply had to return and see Newton someday) but carried on into the theatre. I am so happy I did. Lawrence was a treat - for the eyes and the ears! He looked young and sensitive, yet tormented by the dark forces. His acting was supreme, and the voice was exceptional. He did the trick for me - I didn't even mind getting the late train home that night, because I was high on his performance. Same with his supporting cast, of course, the gang of fellas the show centres around and of course the gorgeous gals who tempt and try them throughout, all magical. 



This meant I was fully prepared to see the show again, two weeks later, thanks to LOVETheatre's 15-hour £15 flash sale (Row F on a Saturday night for £15 each? Pretty effing sweet, no? I tell you, that one deal is worth the endless offer emails I now receive from the LOVETheatre guys). I saw the lovely Newton, tossing his perfect little shot of dreads about, literally climbing the walls and lending his unique vibes to the now old-school songs. I knew it would be odd at first, seeing him being someone else - someone who stuck their middle fingers up a lot and never showered and took drugs - but I properly loved it and believed the performance. 
The three key lads were my favourites. Them, and St Jimmy - he was a delightfully wicked (and totally sexy) metaphor of a character. Tunny, the war hero, played by Alexis Gerred, was immensely unreal. His voice exploded from him, and it was magical. Also the whole way through I was wondering why I felt I knew Will, played by Steve Rushton, so then I looked him up and realised he is a mega star who happened to play in yet another band I loved as a teen. What a cowinkydink. 



I am so excited to have a ticket to see this epic show a third time in September, again thanks to my marvellous friend Jim who abused the 15-hour £15 sale as well to get me the perfect birthday present. 

Highlights (are insanely hard to pick because the entire show was a highlight. It was an endless stream of excitement, like whoa): The song and arrangement of Give Me Novacaine, the fighting and the, ermm, not-fighting, were perfection. The badass women in the show, throwing the men about when they needed a wake up call. The throwing of stuff, which happened a lot. 
And yes, NF in his little black boxers was a highlight too. I guess. Yeah. 

My absolute favourite thing about seeing this show? That there were moments, there were certain songs, when you could hear the artist belting them out onstage and we, the audience, were singing along oh-so quietly. During Boulevard of Broken Dreams for instance, and Wake Me Up When September Ends, all around me I was hearing the loveliest, lightest yet most intense whispering of the words. Because we were swept away and in our element. So I must thank the gorgeous cast for that. 
See you in September, idiots!


(All photos belong to americanidiotthemusical.co.uk, except the top one which is mine!)

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