Hale Arena, site of the Kids' opening set in support of Green Day on Friday, January 26, presents concertgoers with a rare giant-barn ambience, but its clear sight lines and wide-open floor make it a fan-friendly place to catch a major act. The Get Up Kids looked the part, playing in front of an enormous banner that bore the band's name, and its keyboard-injected rock proved well-suited to arena acoustics.
The band delivered a short, tight set, managing to sneak in such surprises as a cover of the Replacements' "Beer for Breakfast" fronted by Pinhead Gunpowder member and Green Day touring guitarist Jason White. "I'm sure none of the kids there knew who the Replacements were, but they cheered anyway," Suptic says. "'Yeah, Keanu Reeves, The Replacements, I've seen that movie.'" While the decision to play "Beer" was relatively spontaneous, an appearance by The Anniversary drummer Christian Jankowski during the Kids' "Ten Minutes" was also unexpected. "He sang it every night during our last U.S. tour, so he decided to do it that night too," says Suptic. "I didn't know he was going to do it. When he ran out, all the kids in the audience were like, 'Who's that? Is he in Green Day?'"
In another unanticipated development, James Dewees' keyboard stand collapsed midsong, though disaster was averted when a crew hastily repaired the equipment. Suptic notes this isn't the first time Dewees, whose shuffling dance moves and goofy choreographed steps with guitarist/vocalist Matt Pryor provide amusing interludes, has seen his instrument fall. "That's the fourth keyboard he's owned," Suptic says. "One already broke on this tour, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We smashed the keyboard that was already totally broken -- all the kids thought we were just smashing it for no reason -- and we threw it out into the crowd. Another time, Matt jumped on James, they fell onto the keyboard, and it collapsed. You just never know what's going to happen at a Get Up Kids show."
On the other hand, fans have a pretty good idea what's going to happen at a Green Day show. The group has been using the same shtick for a while: Vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong always injects a riff from Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" into a covers medley, and during several other songs, the rhythm section provides a steady, muted interval while Armstrong engages the crowd in chants and banter. In one of the group's most endearing stunts, it selects three musicians from the crowd to take over its instruments. During an extended break in its cover of Operation Ivy's "Knowledge," Green Day offered the stage to a 17-year-old drummer, a 23-year-old bassist and a diminutive 13-year-old guitarist, all of whom were chosen at random out of a sea of hand-raisers.
The three musicians picked up their parts immediately, much to the crowd's amusement, and the drummer even embellished his role with a few extra beats, while the guitarist held rhythm even as a slipping guitar strap dropped his ax near his ankles. After bringing the tune to a glorious climax, each of these kings-for-a-day dove from the stage. Part MTV's Fanatic, part espousal of punk's anybody-can-do-this rhetoric, Green Day's creation of Kevin and the Maniax (Armstrong didn't specify this spelling, but in the interest of emphasizing the local flavor, we use it here in honor of the venerable East 40 Highway dance club) felt like a genuine attempt to interact with the large crowd. Of course Suptic, having been on the road with the group for two and a half weeks, had seen it all before. So how did the KC crew rank against other impromptu amateur trios?