Performers – and their music – don’t come much more different than the pair who will be headlining the two biggest shows in Raleigh this weekend.
On the southern end of the city, you have Green Day, arguably the only band to retain punk credibility after selling more than 85 million albums in its career. They’re performing Friday, Sept. 1, at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek.
Roughly 15 miles away at PNC Arena, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran – who just picked up the MTV Video Music Award for Artist of the Year – will be captivating a sold-out audience Saturday, Sept. 2, with odes to ex-girlfriends and the like.
Yet, despite the obvious contrasts that come when comparing an American rock band that debuted one year before Sheeran was born, the two share a surprising amount in common.
So just in case you are a music fan whose tastes cross into these two particular genres, here are some talking points to bring up in conversation.
And rest assured, you’re not alone in being a fan of both: Sheeran is on record as being a huge Green Day fan, with the first concert he ever attended being Green Day at Wembley Stadium. He recently appeared in a video documentary on Green Day to state that the band has been a major influence on his career.
1. They worked together for charity.
During Sheeran’s breakout year of 2013, he and Green Day were among the musicians who signed onto U2 frontman Bono’s One Campaign agit8 Project. With some musical artists re-recording classic protest songs and others adding original cuts, the effort was made to encourage the G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland to boost food production in Africa and improve transparency in international aid. Sheeran covered Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” for the project, while Green Day provided its own “99 Revolutions.”
2. Both took hiatuses before their newest albums.
Green Day bandleader Billie Joe Armstrong allowed the group to take a four-year hiatus, the longest break in the band’s 28-year run, after realizing he was pushing himself too hard. After “American Idiot,” the Broadway musical that features Green Day hits, lyrics became too self-serious. A trio of albums – “Uno!,” “Dos!” and “Tre!” – were released near-simultaneously in 2012 to middling sales. And Armstrong had a pill and alcohol dependency that quickly was spiraling out of control.
Meanwhile, in December 2015, Sheeran shocked fans by announcing that he was taking the next year off. He later revealed on an Australian television news program that he had started to notice that the people around him were beginning to respond lukewarmly to any new songs he played for them. Like Armstrong, he knew he needed a break from the spotlight. He added during the conversation: “But you disappear for a year and then people are kind of hungry for it again.”
3. Both have complicated relationships with smart phones.
At a Q&A event in London last year, Green Day’s Armstrong bemoaned audiences’ reluctance to live in the moment at a concert. “Why would you want to listen to your favorite song going like this,” he said, pantomiming holding a cell phone up in the air, “when you can just hear it right in front of you? I feel like a little more human contact is good.”
Sheeran recently told the BBC that he has gone phone-free in the past year. “I don’t have one at all. It’s amazing. I was at a house party the other day and 50 percent of the people were either Snapchatting or watching Snapchat. Someone said, ‘Why don’t you have a phone anymore?’ And I was like, ‘Look around you. This is exactly why I don’t have a phone anymore.’ ”
4. Both make artistic decisions during shows that divide the audience.
I can guarantee two things about this weekend’s shows. One, Armstrong will make a statement about today’s politics that will cause some to cheer and some to groan. Second, Sheeran will begin rapping at some point during his concert. Not that Sheeran is a terrible rapper, but let’s just say Kanye West has nothing to worry about.
5. Both entered other arenas of the entertainment world to mixed reviews.
The success of Green Day’s “American Idiot” was the biggest story in music at the time of its release in 2004, thanks to its antagonistic view of then-President George W. Bush, as well as its scope. The album was described as a punk rock opera by many in the press, so it made sense at the time that it would later be adapted into a Broadway musical. The musical was nominated for Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won two technical awards for scenery and lighting. Unfortunately, the show suffered from having a story that was vastly inferior to its soundtrack.
In one of the biggest television blunders of the year so far, Sheeran made a cameo appearance as a soldier on the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones.” Many fans felt the appearance was mishandled, as the closeup of the singer in such a small role broke their suspension of disbelief. What’s even more baffling about Sheeran’s cameo is when it’s compared to those of other musicians who have appeared on the show. Members of Coldplay, Mastadon and Of Monsters and Men have all showed up at one point or another but were outfitted so their appearances wouldn’t distract from their respective episodes. Sheeran was just Sheeran in armor.
Green Day with Catfish and the Bottlemen as the opening act
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1
Where: Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh.
Cost: $30-$89. 919-719-5500 or LiveNation.com
Ed Sheeran with James Blunt as the opening act
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2
Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
Cost: $35.50, $65.50, $85.50. 919-861-2300 or ThePNCArena.com