As polarizing as Green Day may be, there is one thing that even the band’s harshest critics might have to concede. From their early days of mud-slinging Woodstock appearances to the grandiose spectacles emerging in the wake of the punk rock operas American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, these guys can put on one hell of a show.
And yet so much of the energy and power that reverberates from such a performance depends on the audience physically being there in the moment, at the moment, presumably making the prospect of a live film especially daunting.
Could such a feat be executed well? Could the raw energy of a Green Day concert be bottled into a home video format?
In fact, it could. Well, it could at least come close. Green Day’s Bullet in a Bible (2005), followed on the heels of the groundbreaking American Idiot album and captured the band at the height of its charismatic and emotive powers to create a concert movie / documentary with a timeless quality.
So after the group’s next record (21st Century Breakdown) had been released, it seemed only natural to once again issue a live recording and repeat the successful trend established by Bullet in a Bible. It’s from this formula at work that we received 2011’s live film, Awesome as Fuck.
Does this second film live up to its namesake? Does it hold a candle to its predecessor?
Well… let’s start with the positive. As always, the band is firing on all cylinders here. With a setlist full of old favorites (“Welcome to Paradise,” Geek Stink Breath,” “Burnout”) as well as new classics (“East Jesus Nowhere,” “21 Guns,” “Jesus of Suburbia”) all delivered with passion to spare, the movie really makes one wish they could have been there to see the performance in person.
What is frustrating, and honestly quite unfair to the band, is that the video presentation often transforms a very fun stage show into an erratic headache.
The main issue with Awesome is Fuck is that performance is not allowed to speak for itself. Yes, Green Day is a manically hard-hitting band with palpable energy. That doesn’t mean that the home viewer needs a cut every two seconds to “feel” the energy. Hell, with such a powerhouse of a group, wouldn’t it make sense to use less superfluous quick cuts?
If that weren’t enough, the entirety of the film is peppered with a perfunctory mélange of weird color filters, weird camera angles, and a slew of redundant cutaway footage of fans queuing up to the stage before the show.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Bullet in Bible was entirely free of filters or occasional fast cutting. The difference is that in Bullet, these concessions were never distracting and when they were included, they felt as if they were earned. In Awesome as Fuck however, one gets the feeling that the film’s editor simply got bored or really didn’t know what to do with the footage they had.
Despite its flawed Michael Bay-esque presentation, Awesome as Fuck gets by because of the finesse inherent in any Green Day concert, but one gets the feeling that as time goes by, the film may be more and more difficult to watch simply because of the perplexing choices that will surely make it feel like a dated relic.
In short, if you’re a fan of Billie Joe and the gang, this is at least a fun sounding DVD to pop in and play in the background, but if you’re looking for the definitive Green Day concert video, Bullet in a Bible is what you’re looking for.
…by the way, what’s up with that title?
Rating: 3 out of 5