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After releasing a career-defining album that gets you called “a voice of a generation,” wins you Grammys and further solidifies your position as one of the world's biggest bands, what next? Well, first chill out for a couple of years. Then: Spurn respectability, spurn U2 pretensions, come up with a not-so-secret alter ego, record awesomely derivative punked-up British Invasion jams and kick off your first tour in almost three years in a 300-capacity club in Little Rock.
That's right, the stars aligned for intrepid club-goers in Little Rock on Monday, or at least those brave enough to wait in a line that, at its height, stretched two long city blocks: Green Day, playing under the pseudonym the Foxboro Hot Tubs, performed in town for the first time since 1993. Line-waiters weren't disappointed.
The band played a rousing set, hitting on all 13 Foxboro Hot Tubs songs and several covers. Billie Joe Armstrong, who introduced himself as the “Reverend Strychnine Twitch,” took the stage with a big mop of peroxide blonde hair, a sherpa-lined brown jacket and Foxboro Hot Tubs t-shirt. Even though this was the third date on what's so far a 10-date tour, he declared the Little Rock show the “official kick-off” of the Foxboro Hot Tubs tour (the previous gigs had, apparently, been billed under yet another pseudonym). He also said things that the crowd appreciated. Like: “We're going to get drunk tonight!” and “Little Rock, Arkansas!!!”
The band gleefully aped '60s Brit rock, swiping riffs from Kinks songs like “You Really Got Me” almost wholesale — local musician and frequent Times reviewer Jason Weinheimer called it a revisionist British Invasion: no Stones, no Beatles, all Kinks and the Who. But no one's complaining. They didn't just steal. They stole and made new. They wrote infectious lyrics and hooks and, of course, they sped everything up, which worked right nicely in a small club teeming with fist-pumpers and would-be stage-divers.
Green Day fans, not yet up on the Foxboro Hot Tubs' “Stop Drop and Roll,” which just released on CD and vinyl on Tuesday, weren't left wholly in the dark. They got a raucous version of the crowd pleaser “Blood, Sex and Booze,” not long after Billie Joe chugged a Pabst tallboy.
Jason White, Little Rock native, the band's de facto fourth member and surely the reason Green Day even considered playing Little Rock, got his time in the spotlight, too. Billie Joe talked about meeting White when he was touring with Step by Step back in the early '90s. After a failed Memphis gig, White invited Green Day back to a party in Little Rock — the beginnings of a long friendship, Armstrong said.
White also helped Armstrong with one of the more surreal parts of the night: Leading the crowd in a chant that started with Arkansas and morphed into shout-outs to Central High and Stifft Station. After some 15 songs and an frenetic version of the band's new single, “Pedestrian,” Billie Joe told the crowd, we're “one-sixth from here” and “for a town called Little Rock, there's been a lotta rock here tonight.” It was corny. No one cared.
For an encore, the FBTs did their “So Tired” stand-in “Red Tide,” and then launched into an epic cover of the Who's “A Quick One While He's Away,” an amped-up version that included vocal harmonies from all six members and ended with Billie Joe falling into the crowd, screaming “You are forgiven!”
Little Rock continues to represent. The Foxboro Hot Tubs tapped Little Rock barroom rockers Smoke Up Johnny to open on Monday. There were vets of the band's wild shows in Monday's crowd, but I'd venture that most of the die-hard Green Day fans had never even heard of the band. But by the end of their set, SUJ had just about everyone in the crowd clapping in rhythm over their heads. They'll continue on the road with the band this week, playing shows in New Orleans, Austin and Dallas. Check the Times' entertainment blog, Rock Candy, for tour check-ins with SUJ frontman Alan Disaster.