What better way to hold one of Florida’s largest-scale concerts since March 2020 but with fireworks, confetti, and…fire?
In 2019, alt-rock poster-boys Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer all announced plans to be involved in a massive “Hella Mega Tour,” which included two stops in Florida—Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field and Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. It was not to be a quick drive from Palm Harbor to either city, but in this life, when you have a chance to see Billie Joe Armstrong and Rivers Cuomo perform live within a few hours of each other, you snatch it.
Unfortunately, the non-conformists had to accept the fact that the hottest show (literally) of summer 2020 was not to be. Though the Hella Mega Tour was one of the victims of the COVID-19 axe last May, rescheduled dates for all shows in the U.S. emerged within a month or two. And we should be so lucky that we only had to wait an extra year. The Hella Mega Tour will not swing to Europe (fingers crossed) until next summer, and the tour’s dates in Australia were downright canceled. Not to mention the CDC released new updates on mask usage during the delta variant of COVID-19 earlier in the week. Talk about anxiety in the days leading up to a six-hour drive (thanks, Disney traffic).
Nonetheless, one of the first stadium shows in Florida since lockdown commenced. Masks were strongly recommended for those unvaccinated, but fans with hair colors ranging from gray to green mainly chose to keep them off, in an effort to prevent suffocation in the sweltering Jacksonville heat.
Warming up maybe a few thousand live music-deprived fans was a half-hour set from ska-favorite The Interrupters. Brothers Justin, Kevin, and Jesse—plus lead singer Aimee Interrupter are only three studio albums into their career, but that didn’t mean that the setlist couldn’t be diverse. Kicking things off was Aimee bouncing all over creation on “A Friend Like Me,” off of The Interrupters’ eponymous debut album from 2014. Not long after, Aimee—dressed in a leather jacket (despite the unbearable heat) and enormous white sunglasses, showed off her raspy, yet powerful pipes on “Take Back The Power.” “Are you a fighter or will you cower?/It’s our time to take back the power,” she sings.
The band also leaned on a cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” perhaps as a poke in the arm remimdomh the rock legends waiting backstage that a lot’s happened in music since their heyday. Ending the Bivona brothers and Aimee’s time onstage was their 2018 Canadian Billboard chart-topper “She’s Kerosine.” Even by the end of The Interrupters’ set, the pit was only about a quarter of the way full—understandably. Not that The Interrupters were underwhelming or anything, but I didn’t see a single shirt of the band’s that wasn’t behind the merchandise tables.
There wasn’t much stage stripping to do, since the first co-headliner’s stage setup was backlined. And at 6:15 p.m., a transposed fragment from Van Halen’s “Jump” began to play over the speakers, as frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of Weezer marched out, in all their dorky glory. Cuomo, decked out in a yellow bandana, a Bushnell Way Elementary School t-shirt, and teal nail polish, launched straight into “Hero,” off of the quartet’s newest release, Van Weezer. He held on to the same lighting bolt-drenched Jackson Rhoads electric for the majority of the show, even crunching out some of those solos that guitarist Brian Bell usually does. But apparently, he’s just not cool enough to get a signature model yet.
“We’re the Weezers,” Cuomo joked before introducing a shortened version of Van Weezer’s opening track, “The End Of The Game,” which segued into the full version of The Blue Album’s “My Name Is Jonas.” After that smooth transition, practically everything you expect to happen at a Weezer concert went down. During “Island in the Sun,” beach balls nearly hit Cuomo—who didn’t sing the high parts of the bridge (“We’ll never feel bad anymore.”) The band’s 2018, Twitter-requested cover of Toto’s “Africa” got a great, big ovation, as if it were the end of the band’s set. Then came “El Scorcho,” the set’s only Pinkerton cut—and a normal addition to a typical Weezer setlist.
“I asked you to go to the Green Day concert…” he sang, which triggered every fan already inside to cheer back at him. “You said you never heard of ‘em!” he bluntly replied.
Weezer noticeably shortened the majority of the newer songs in its hour-long set. “All the Good Ones” was cut off before the last few choruses, and the first full minute of The Black Album’s “California Snow” debuted on this tour—that is, only the spoken word part and first chorus. “COVID can suck my dick,” Cuomo ended the spoken word part with.
To a Weezer fan who follows closely, “California Snow” might have seemed like an odd selection to salute Black with on this specific tour. In the confusingly gory music video for Black’s first track, “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz appears as an inconsiderate couple’s Uber driver. The instant the song ends, he yells “Get the fuck out of the car!” You could say that Pete Wentz—backstage with Fall Out Boy—missed a unique opportunity to end Weezer’s set by kicking them offstage.
Instead, the most senior of all the frontmen on this tour decided to end with two jams from The Blue Album—“Say It Ain’t So,” and “Buddy Holly,” the latter of which opened Weezer’s most recent show in Tampa. With that, the lights came up, the stage was redressed, and 30 minutes later, it was like Weezer hadn’t performed at all.
Fall Out Boy, which hasn’t been on tour since its 2018 album, M A N I A, walked out at the end of an introductory video featuring Ron Livingston, as if he were Rod Serling. In seconds, shirtless straight-edge drummer Andy Hurley entered the stage, fire came from out of the headstock of Pete Wentz’ bass for the first of many times, and the band kicked off its set with a transposed version (like most everything to be performed) of “The Phoenix.” When Gene Simmons breathes fire, it’s cool. But from the perspective of the boys from Illinois, that’s a cliche. Who gets fire to burst out of a bass? And also, who plays a song they did with Sir Elton John behind a piano that is actively bursting into flames?
Lead singer Patrick Stump, that’s who.
“It feels good to be back here at concerts, you know?” Wentz casually remarked before Stump began wailing out the first verse of “Uma Thurman.” Then, the punk fans from the early 2000s got a treat—“Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” wasn’t a surprise addition, but it was a deep breath of nostalgia for those who are less partial to Fall Out Boy’s pop-oriented sound of recent years.
So, going back to the piano on fire. Stump sat behind it, played “Save Rock And Roll,” and sang Elton John’s part so flawlessly, I was half-convinced that Elton was going to be a special guest, and walk onstage at any given second. It didn’t happen, but anybody who walked into TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night unwilling to enjoy Fall Out Boy probably now understands Patrick Stump’s vocal—and instrumental—talent. Oh, and Pete Wentz dedicated it to “this fucking manatee” he met at the Jacksonville Zoo earlier that day. “It felt like he could see my future when I looked in his eyes,” he admitted.
A few fireless songs later (“Dance, Dance,” “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me’,”) the flames returned—both out of Wentz’ bass and onstage for “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” which saw every fist in the pit shoot straight up, followed by everyone “oh-oh”-ing along with Stump on “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up).” Of the three co-headliners, Fall Out Boy has been around for the shortest amount of time, and while the Weezer fans in attendance are undoubtedly dedicated, there were only a few songs in its set that were real fist-pumpers—unlike Pete Wentz and company.
Closing Fall Out Boy’s first Florida concert since 2018 was a duo of “Centuries” and early fan-favorite “Saturday,” the latter of which saw Wentz strutting out in his own no. 23 Jaguars jersey. Some of us may have booed.
It took another half-hour for the crew to set up for Green Day’s long-awaited return to Florida—their first show here since a 2017 stop at Tampa’s MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheater. Except this time, there was less promotion for new material. The boys’ latest album, 2020’s Father Of All… was mediocre at best—evidently, it remained completely untouched.
At 9:15 p.m., the stadium was slightly less-than-packed, and it was finally pitch black out. “Bohemian Rhapsody” starting to play over the loudspeakers was the signal that it was almost time for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted group to make this already mega show, a hella mega show. Once a man-sized pink bunny finished prancing around, getting the crowd rowdy over “Blitzkrieg Bop,” Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool, and touring guitarist Jason White all ran out from stage left. Billie Joe, dressed in all black, minus a white blazer that came off shortly, immediately and aggressively launched into the unmistakable title track of Green Day’s musical—and critically-acclaimed concept album, American Idiot, followed by “Holiday,” as opposed to the record’s sophomore track, “Jesus Of Suburbia.” Green Day has mainly ditched the thick eyeliner, and with everyone turning 50 next year, bouncing off the walls would be limited, but not by much. But the pop-punks getting older didn’t mean that nobody partied like they were angry teenagers living in Bush-era America.
“Longview,” featuring Mike Dirnt’s unmistakable bass slapping, still holds up as well as it did on Dookie in 1994—depending on what you do when you’re alone. “When I Come Around” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” both saw most every sweaty, eyeliner-dripping fan rasping out each word perfectly, with whatever voice they had left. And though “21 Guns” was left incomplete after the instrumental break following the song’s bridge, the phone flashlights in the nosebleeds illuminated the stadium in a more glorious way than any house lights could.
Though Father Of All… was ignored, Green Day did show off some new material. In May, the pop-punks released the single “Pollyanna,” in celebration that things were looking like they were starting to go back to normal following the hellish last year. Despite the delta variant taking over, the unusually hopeful, positive song for a once perpetually-angry trio was performed early on in their set.
Perhaps the highlight of being in the presence of Green Day was Billie Joe Armstrong’s insane ability to control an audience—the same way Freddie Mercury did. Yep, we just went there. Firstly, his demanding screams alone brought out the youth in everyone.
“Let’s go fucking crazy!”
“Reach for the sky!”
“Let me fucking hear you!”
Right in the middle of 1997’s “Hitchin’ A Ride,” Billie Joe began that thing where he split the crowd in half, and by raising his hands, decided which side should cheer, and which side should stay silent—and which side should boo the opposite side. And when his hands went down, you’d better believe that a certain side would quickly silence themselves.
“We got some crazy motherfuckers in Florida!” He called out when he was done with that schtick. “That’s why we love Florida!”
At some point during almost every song, Billie Joe gave out at least two “ay-oh”’s for the crowd to echo back. But during “Minority,” an entire segment of “ay-oh”’s was sandwiched in between a harmonica solo and band introductions—including one “ay-oh" that lasted 23 seconds. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re echoing him, 23 seconds turns to what feels like hours of breathless joy. “Give yourselves a good round of applause,” he commanded.
A few covers were presented, too. For some reason, KISS’ “Rock And Roll All Nite” was added to the list—maybe as a celebration of how regretful they were of taking live music for granted, and how they never will again. The second and final cover of the night was a bit more special: Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge” has made its way into Green Day setlists over the years, and it’s no secret in the fandom that this is a special part of the show. It’s at that moment when Billie Joe invites a guitar-playing fan onstage to shred alongside the band, and then keep the guitar that they’re given to play.
Tonight, it was a fan who did not play guitar, but got to keep the six-string anyway. Billie Joe has lightened up a great deal in recent years, but normally, his picks for who gets to come onstage were incredibly specific, and normally included him asking his selection about how far their guitar knowledge stretched.
Tre, Mike, and Billie Joe’s last fifteen minutes were every positive adjective you can think of. Probably making up for not finishing “21 Guns,” the band managed to bang out all 9 minutes of “Jesus Of Suburbia,” fireworks to follow certain rhythms and all. Finally, the night ended in a humble, but triumphant way. Billie Joe came out with an acoustic, and ended an electrifying evening with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which had Tre and Mike surround Billie Joe at the front of the stage as he sang the last verse, and about a minute of fireworks as the house lights came up.
I think it’s safe to say that Jacksonville did indeed have the time of its life, even if some of us felt like we were going to suffocate in our masks. At the very least, we played it as safe as humanly possible. ’Twas something unpredictable, but in the end, it was right.
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