Live Report: Hella Mega Tour at Dodger Stadium (9/3/21)

After waiting over a year due to the many pandemic delays, the long-awaited, massive rock show which is the Hella Mega Tour finally made it to Los Angeles. Featuring support from ska-punks The Interrupters; Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Green Day arrived at Dodger Stadium to put on the biggest, loudest rock show anyone could ask for, and they succeeded with flying colors.

As so many publications have already covered this tour, and to break things down by band would seem inconsequential, it felt reasonable to focus on some of the noticeable highlights and thoughts I had following this six hour show.

Stadium Songs

There are tons of amazing musicians in the world. Many are excellent instrumentalists, singers and charismatic performers – but that doesn’t mean their talents can translate to a stadium setting. To put on a legit stadium show, it takes a mix of big songs, confident stage presence, captivating visuals and a whole lot of energy. These bands had it.

The underdogs on the bill would naturally be The Interrupters. This Southern California ska-punk group only has two albums out, and rode to some success off of singles “She’s Kerosene” and “Gave Your Everything”, but are still far from being house hold names. Everyone who managed to arrive early enough to catch them will certainly be remembering them following the show. Their songs translated to the stadium setting better than I would have thought, with “Take Back the Power” and “Gave You Everything” especially fitting in well. Speaking to friends at the show who were unfamiliar with the group prior to the night, everyone gave the group high marks.

The other three bands all knew to bring their biggest and riffiest hits. Weezer‘s most recent album Van Weezer was basically made for stadiums, so the three songs they played from it filled the space. Songs like “Beverly Hills”, “Hash Pipe”, “Surf Wax America” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” were strong reminders that Weezer can rock out with the best of them. Fall Out Boy‘s tracks are sleeker and not as obviously built for large venues like this, but they managed to pull them off with a combination of pyrotechnics and sci-fi inspired visuals (including an unexpected intro from actor Ron Livingstone). Even though I will admit to not being as keen to some of FOB’s more recent singles, which have lost some of the soul of their earlier work, their newer work proved to be just as impactful as earlier singles like “Sugar, We’re Going Down” (which was still their biggest singalong).

Of all the bands, Green Day were the only ones with previous stadium experience, having played massive venues during their American Idiot tour, and credit to the band, after thirty years they’ve got the live performance down. Billie Joe Armstrong can have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand within seconds. He knows that the live experience is about more than just playing the songs; it’s interaction, call-and-response and spontaneous moments (though nothing from that night seemed to be different than previous stops on the tour). Even if they have done it before, there’s still something special about seeing the group bring a fan on stage to jam with them on guitar. There’s still something special about seeing the entire audience jumping at once, bringing out their phones as lighters during a ballad, or simply hearing 45k people singing along to their songs, which have stood the tests of time. Green Day know this, and made the show an experience.

Covers

With the exception of Fall Out Boy, covers played important roles throughout the show. The Interrupters‘ transformation of Billie Eilish‘s pop-trap hit “Bad Guy” into a bass-heavy ska track proved to be an ingenious idea, getting them placement in The Umbrella Academy, and getting the stamp of approval from all of the youngest fans in the audience. Weezer, as expected, brought out their hit take on Toto‘s “Africa”, and it may have been the biggest moment of their set. Everyone was singing along, and Rivers Cuomo had some fun with it, laying down on speakers and hamming it up for the 80’s classic.

Green Day chose two fitting covers for their set; KISS‘ “Rock and Roll All Night”, likely the very definition of a “stadium song”, with its loud, dumb shout-along chorus, and Operation Ivy‘s “Knowledge”, a fitting tribute to their NorCal punk roots. While the former was more familiar to the audience, for those who grew up listening to ska-punk, the Op Ivy jam was mosh-worthy Easter egg.

Highlights

The Interrupters blew up with “She’s Kerosene”, but hearing “Take Back the Power” in a stadium setting felt exhilarating. The anthemic protest track’s gigantic, memorable chorus blasted from the speakers and made me want to hit the streets.

While Weezer‘s “Africa” was a blast to hear live, their ending singalong for “Buddy Holly” hit an emotional note. It brought back memories of discovering Weezer through the “Buddy Holly” video on an old Windows 95 CD-Rom, and made me think how amazing it was that this sort of goofy yet sincere power pop track was able to become such an enduring hit.

Green Day played so many hits, it was hard to decide what moment of their set was best. Surprisingly, it may have been the moving decision to play 2016’s “Still Breathing”, which certainly in the context of the last two years, struck a chord. Then again, the one-two punch of playing the entire “Jesus of Suburbia” and then Billie Joe doing “Good Riddance” solo acoustic felt so right you couldn’t really ask for more.

The moment of the evening that may have brought me personally the most joy though was Fall Out Boy breaking out “Save Rock and Roll”. Originally performed with Elton John on the album, the track has always been a personal favorite of mine. Pete Wentz introduced the track by going back to when talks were underway about doing the Hella Mega Tour, and he asked the big question; do kids still listen to rock and roll? As someone who holds all things rock deeply in his heart, it’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, as I’ve worried that my beloved genre would become something relegated to oldies stations and history. But being in a crowd of 45k people all excited to hear rock music, the song was the perfect answer to the question. As Patrick Stump sang from a burning piano, even doing a spot-on Elton impression, the carried numerous layers of weight; a thrill for being at a rock show with so many other fans, a thrill for being at an actual huge concert after the years in quarantine, and simply a testament to the enduring power of great bands writing great music and creating these communal experiences that make life better.

Conclusion

It felt surreal to be in a baseball stadium, watching a concert again. While not my first show back since the pandemic, this was certainly the biggest and felt the most epic. The show proved a lot of things; The Interrupters are only just getting started; Weezer are forever survivors; Fall Out Boy can hold their own with their heroes, and as long as Green Day are alive and kicking, the spirit of rock and roll will thrive.

Listen to the official Hella Mega Tour Playlist curated by Green Day:

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