LIVE REVIEW: Billie Joe Armstrong’s The Coverups Run Through Classics & Rarities In London

London, The Garage, February 27 2024

“I’m so bored…”

It took just three words on an Instagram post for everybody to know that Billie Joe Armstrong was up to his old tricks again. He’s making quite a habit of this, popping up in London and playing some of that sweet punk rock for a few hundred lucky sets of ears. Though, as we all know, Green Day's intimate appearance at the Electric Ballroom late last year was unfortunately cancelled due to illness, this time, it was up to The Coverups – his jukebox-esque side project specialising in dishing out the classics – to bring the fun to the capital.

Announcing two shows, both selling out in seconds, this would be the first time the group would be on stage together on this side of the Atlantic. The iconic 100 Club will kickstart the weekend later this week, but first, The Garage in Highbury played host to a night that nobody in attendance will forget in a hurry.

First up though were LOVEBREAKERS, who are celebrating the imminent release of their new album ‘Wonder’. Their bright and breezy sound conjures up images of long, hot summers spent cruising around LA without a care in the world, which, in the grips of this cold British winter night, is a welcome escape. Clearly unable to believe that this is a real thing they are doing, they effortlessly gain 600 new fans with a heartfelt, human and wholesomely rousing display.

One of the most fun things about a Coverups show is that you simply don’t know what you’ll get. As Billie Joe and Co – Jason White, Bill Schneider and Chris Dugan but unfortunately not Mike Dirnt – march front and centre, and the collective crowd before them shakes their heads in disbelief that this is actually happening, he lets everybody know that this is quite simply a massive karaoke session and participation is wholly encouraged. As they open with a thrilling take on the Plimsouls classic ‘A Million Miles Away’, it becomes clear just how special this really is. A group of friends who have taken on the world’s biggest stages, getting together and jamming out some of the songs that made them fall in love with music in the first place. If you think about it too much, it becomes pretty surreal and otherworldly. Yet in the most straightforward sense, it is absolutely joyous.

What follows is 90 minutes of pure celebration. There are two Ramones songs dropped in the form of 'Rockaway Beach’ and 'I Wanna Be Sedated’, as there are two Generation X cuts – 'Ready Steady Go’ and 'Dancing With Myself’. There are nods to the forefathers of the UK movement via The Clash's ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ and The Damned's ‘Neat Neat Neat’ as well as a stunning rendition of David Bowie's ‘Ziggy Stardust’. There are iconic American staples such as Bryan Adams' undeniable ‘Summer Of 69’ and Tom Petty's gorgeous ‘American Girl’ too. It’s all here and all delivered with the tightness and passion of a band that know how each other play and perform down to a tee.

With each new song that is revealed, a different pocket of the crowd reacts like they have won the lottery. Arms outstretched, voices raised to the roof and smiles plastered across faces, everybody in the room has their own little moment they have only ever dreamt of experiencing before. There are dance pits, couples looking at each other with sheer adoration as they sing along and friends with shoulder to shoulder with pints aloft. It’s the sort of atmosphere you wish you could bottle, one that feels like the purest essence of what it is to love what life has to offer us to the absolute fullest.

However, the surprises don’t stop there, as one Courtney Love makes her way on stage, visibly moved by the outpouring of love her reveal garners. Joining the band for Cheap Trick's ‘He’s A Whore’ and Tom Petty's ‘Even The Losers’, the addition of her raspy tones and intimately raw demeanour feel like the years rolling back in real time. Billie Joe is clearly moved by her joining them, stating himself that we need Courtney now more than ever, and very few in attendance would disagree.

There’s still time for a slick playthrough of The Strokes' ‘Last Nite’, a gritty take on Nirvana's ‘Drain You’, and an unexpected but incredibly welcome drop of ‘Love Is For Losers’ from the Billie Joe project The Longshots. All three are vital in their own way, but the latter feels like something many may have thought they would never get to see. It’s this wide array of nods, of honouring every corner of the musical spectrum, that The Coverups truly come into their own. An understanding that everybody in this room is deeply infatuated with music and sharing that with each other is a blessing unlike any other.

There’s only one way that such an exquisite night could end, and that is with Courtney joining the gang again to play her favourite song ever; ‘Surrender’ by Cheap Trick. And though Billie Joe admits there is no way they could follow such a heartfelt and heavenly display, they manage it with a riotous encore of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ by The Misfits. Put simply, these are the nights that get talked about for years to come. The true ‘I Was There’ times that live long in the memory and even longer in the heart. Though you know that is just as true for The Coverups as it is for the lucky few who managed to secure tickets.

This is blowing off steam in the most therapeutic, thrilling and fantastical ways, returning to the root of why they do what they do and savouring every second. A reminder of just how important it is to never lose the spirit of what it means to pick up some instruments with your best mates and play like your life depends on it. Though he will be back with Green Day in the Summer to take over Wembley Stadium, tonight, Billie Joe was playing for the 18-year-old he used to be. That kid at the forefront of something incredible, making their way to the UK for the first time to play in Wigan, Preston and Brighton. Freewheeling, fierce and fuelled by the sheer fun of it all, that’s a feeling unlike any other. And seeing him still being able to still channel that all these years later is something that should never be taken for granted.

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