American Idiot, the album, was a big part of my life throughout high school. I have only listened to a select few of their backlog, and have heard even less of their newer material to be quite honest. But American Idiot highlights a vivid part of my memory: walking to and from school each day roaring the songs silently to myself, being suspended from school, being incredibly uncomfortable with knowing who I was, and who on earth I should be aiming to be.
It may sound gloomy, but high school was both the worst and best times of my life and this album is undoubtedly one of the soundtracks for it.
Walking into The Arts Theatre threw me right back to that time. On a static ridden TV – the kind that’s not especially of the area, but certainly one I had – was scenes from 9/11 fallout. Bush bumbling, deniers questioning, and most of all terror and anguish in the eyes of Americans. I remember these scenes – I remember how I felt in that period of my life.
The musical opens with, the revolves around, three men – maybe they’re just butting against an age where responsibility should be grabbing them and stringing them up in a half Windsor noose. They feel lost and aimless, but also resistant to becoming the people playing on the TV. Ambition leads them to leave town. It’s not a spoiler, if you’ve heard the album, to say that it doesn’t really work out for them.
The cast were all incredibly energetic – the dancers (who were also often singers) and leads alike. There wasn’t a loose link between any of them. The choreography was fantastic, and outfits just added to my nostalgia for the time.
I have seen others reviewing the show saying that the story is a bit loosey-goosey, and maybe it is to someone that hadn’t heard the album before. To someone who listened to it many times, and spent a large amount of time trying to understand the story, the show felt it was connecting many dots for me and filling in the gaps. Certainly, it felt like someone who enjoyed the music in the past will get more out of it than someone hoping for a story-based musical, akin to Chicago or something.
When the lights were turned up on the audience during one of the numbers, I realised I was grinning like an idiot. I may have been like that for most of the show, without realising. It was delightful and a perfect throwback to a younger me.