Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rage and love, the story of my life

I may not be burning my candle at both ends like in my younger days, but I do occasionally have a weekend that wipes me out. Only now it’s usually more family oriented activities... like cub scout events (Pinewood Derby, anyone? Anyone?), or G-rated movies. Occasionally, though, I get to go to a nightclub or rock event... this weekend’s American Idiot show, for instance.

If you’re not hip to that scene, American Idiot is a stage show that originated on Broadway, adapted from the album of the same name by California punk outfit Green Day. It’s a fantastic album – a rock opera, bombastic and harmonic at the same time. 

My husband (who bought me the tix for Christmas – Thanks, Tom!!!) and I went in a bit unprepared. I knew the album pretty well, but Tom didn’t. Neither of us knew the story going in. So we watched it unfold mysteriously before us... sometimes with understanding, sometimes confused, but always digging the music. Well, I did, anyway. 

Green Day
I’ve always loved that anthemic sort of music: guitars grinding and ringing, manly voices half singing, half shouting in unison... Like U2, The Alarm, Big Country and... Green Day. This show was chock full of that angry, triumphant loudness – not to mention striking visuals and boys in underpants! (We saw several people who appeared to be over the age of 80 at the show – we can only assume they were season pass holders. We couldn’t help wondering about their opinion of the volume, the drug use, sex and constant bird-flipping that spiked the show's earnest plot.) 

A scene from the play
And regarding the plot, we actually looked it up on Wikkipedia on the way home so that we could confirm our vague ideas about the action on stage. It involves three angry young men who are disgusted with suburban life. One stays home with his pregnant girlfriend; two flee to the dark dangerous city. Of these two, one joins the army to escape the grim realities of city life, and the other discovers his own dark side – a wild, drug-taking, abusive alter-ego called “St. Jimmy,” who is so bad I thought he was supposed to symbolize the devil! (I’ll throw in an aside here: if you’re a youth who wants to be in a music scene, get discovered and possibly signed, I know a much safer place to be than the mythic “city” depicted in works of drama like American Idiot: Chapel Hill. It’s a sweet, small town with a big music scene.)

Anyway, the boys play out the drama of adjusting to and accepting the consequences of their life choices, and it isn’t until they experience love and loss, loss and love, and return home that I realized... “Oh... this is the prodigal son!” I’m not sure if they regard coming home as a relief or defeat, but to me, it’s seems their salvation, because amid all this love and loss and anger and regret, their salvation is their relationship, and here they are back together again. 

Add black spiky hair and black eyeliner
and you, too, can resemble
Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day!
Anyway, after all this, the curtain lowers, then rises, the actors take bows, the curtain lowers, the rises again, to reveal the whole cast with guitars singing, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), which ends like this: “I hope you had the time of your life.” And I have to say, I did. The show has so many things about it that I love: a guy who looked a lot like Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong... (btw, I’m thinking you could put that spiky black hair and eyeliner on just about ANYONE and they would resemble BJA)... loud music, rockin’ guitars, boys in underpants, a reminder of my own youthful exuberance (idiocy), and, finally... a quasi-Biblical ending.

And in the end, this is what I long for: a Biblical ending for this life of joy and pain, celebration and regret, faith and fear... 

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