“I want to say one thing on behalf of the three bands of the Hella Mega Tour: You’re welcome,” Billie Joe Armstrong declared at the outset of Green Day’s set at West Hollywood’s venerably tiny Whisky-a-Go-Go (capacity: 500). There, on the Sunset Strip on a Tuesday night, a triple bill that included Fall Out Boy and Weezer took the stage as a sampler of their just announced summer stadium dates. Because, if you’re going to go on tour playing the biggest venues known to man, why not promote it by playing one of the smallest?
Armstrong made the triple-header seem like they were a mission from God, “because rock ‘n’ roll is f—ing alive,” he declared. “And you’ve got to get every ounce of it, all the time!”
Indeed, smartphones were not confiscated or put into pouches: The bands seemed to be banking on the small number of fans allowed in disseminating footage of the controlled mayhem, with implicit subtitles: Now imagine this in Fenway Park (or Dodger Stadium, or Wrigley Field…).
Nostalgia was in the air to be sure, what with hit-packed sets covering a few dozen of the most impactful rock-adjacent songs of the last 20 years. The asterisk in this statement being that, while the three bands all share the same management — Los Angeles-based Crush, home to Sia and Panic! at the Disco, among others acts — sonically they don’t overlap much. Weezer’s is a steady pop-rock gallop where Fall Out Boy is an assault of echoey chants and Green Day is a relentless pummeling of guitars and punk-proud melody, the combination of which, the Whisky show proved, is pretty undeniable as concert bills go.
Of course, it helped that those on stage seemed genuinely enthused about the gig and future trek, starting with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo’s choice for stage-wear: a Fall Out Boy T-shirt. Armstrong also offered a fixating visual, smearing his lips and face in bright red lipstick.
During Fall Out Boy’s middle set, bassist Pete Wentz in particular seemed to take delight in the amount of stage diving going on, something the group surely hasn’t experienced nearly this much of since graduating to the barrier- and bouncer-friendlier arena level. Despite the usual stateside signs stating that stage diving was cause for ejection, Wentz was a bad example, throwing himself into the crowd three times, two of those while playing bass.
“People ask us what it was like” in the days when Fall Out Boy was forming out of the Chicago hardcore scene, Wentz said. “It was like this, with less suits buying expensive drinks, and less babies.” He didn’t seem to mind the latter developments too much as the cost of growing up and into mature headliner status, but was clearly enjoying having his bruiser youth flash before his eyes.
All three groups played the new singles they had simultaneously released earlier in the day to promote the tour announcement (and also preview their individual upcoming albums) — and each played for just under an hour. Living very much up to the title of their May 2020 album “Van Weezer,” Weezer performed “The End of the Game,” a song that could not have sounded more like Van Halen and less like traditional Weezer if the group had actually brought Eddie Van Halen on stage and forced him to shred at gunpoint. Later, after introducing their cover of Toto’s “Africa” with the disclaimer “Speaking of not giving a f—,” Rivers Cuomo put his guitar down to wander around the entirety of the club as he sang.
Fall Out Boy followed suit with the brand new “Dear Future Self (Hands Up),” sans the recorded guest part from Wyclef Jean. When it came time for Green Day to perform their new song, “Father of All…,” they knew what everyone was thinking: “Too f—ing short!” declared Armstrong. He has already announced that the group’s spring album will only be 26 minutes long, and having the songs clock in at around two and a half minutes, as this one does, will obviously be a reason for that economy. At the Whisky, he had a solution for that: have the band immediately run through the song a second time.
The rest of Green Day’s set, which kicked off with “American Idiot” — setting a frenzied mood fitting of the Trump era — offered the band’s signature call-and-response on songs like “Holiday” and “Minority,” and plenty of opportunities for the crowd, industry-heavy as it was, to lead on vocals.
Armstrong occasionally went into preacher mode. He urged those in attendance to take off their clothes for a nude riot on the Sunset Strip. “We’re gonna go streaking down Sunset Blvd. tonight!” he announced. “Rock ‘n’ roll is f—ing freedom!” Much as the crowd seemed ready to follow his every command, they took a “you first” attitude toward this one. We can only guess whether they took his advice when he demanded: “Get drunk and have sex tonight! Don’t worry about what’s politically correct. Because that’s what f—ing life is supposed to be about. Use your vagina! Use your penis!” After a pause, Armstrong smartly added, “I’m going to stop there.”