Setlist History: Green Day's Infamous Las Vegas Meltdown

In 2012 Green Day were as ambitious and idealistic as ever. Coming off the success of their second rock opera, 21st Century Breakdown, and subsequent world tour; Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool, were poised to release three albums in late 2012 (¡Uno! , ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!), one after another, in relatively short succession.

To build some hype around it they played a club date in LA, some festival gigs in Japan and Europe, the MTV VMAs, and the intimate Irving Plaza in NYC.

After a week off they flew to Vegas to play the iHeart Radio Festival which also featured huge stars like Rihanna, Usher, Swedish House Mafia, Lil Wayne, Psy, No Doubt, and Taylor Swift, among others.

When Green Day took the stage, Armstrong was ornery, riled up, flirty, aggressive, and seasoned, even though it was clear the audience was not there just to see the Bay Area punk pop trio. He also seemed to be having fun.

That fun ended when a screen in the middle of the MGM Grand Garden Arena informed him their 30-minute set only had one minute remaining.

The prolific singer/songwriter snapped, became angry, dropped F-bombs by the dozens, and along the way insulted Justin Bieber who wasn't even in the house.

When the screen blanked out, telling him he had 0 minutes remaining, he smashed his guitar, and in solidarity Dirnt slammed his bass against the floor and speaker cabinets. Armstrong, middle finger extended, then tossed the mic into the air and warned they'd be back.

The screen telling Billie the set must end

From the outside it looked like a typical punk rock moment: veteran band feels slighted, blows a gasket, flips off one of the largest radio station conglomerates in history, breaks stuff, and saunters into the sunset of Sin City.

Untitled – By Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Clear Channel

But in reality, it was the culmination of years of hard drinking, substance abuse, lack of sleep, and exhaustion, Armstrong would later tell Rolling Stone.

Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora with Billie Joe backstage before the infamous set.

"They were prescrip­tion," Armstrong told David Fricke of the magazine, "for anxiety and sleep. I started combining them to a point where I didn’t know what I was taking during the day and what I was taking at night. It was just this routine. My backpack sound­ed like a giant baby rattle [from all of the vials inside]."

Apparently there had been discussion of the singer going to rehab during the European dates but he vetoed the idea. Days after his MGM meltdown he entered an outpatient program and later apologized to all parties and declared that he was now sober, that audiences who saw video from that show (something he said he would not revisit) was his last drink.

In 2020 he told NME sobriety is in his rear window.

“I’m not really sober anymore,” he admitted. “I had a time where I needed to learn to grow up a little bit and take responsibility for myself and for my own independence, and I did. Now I’m moving forward. I had a good run, so let the good times roll!”

Green Day has indeed let the good times roll. We have not seen any ill effects of Billie ending his sobriety. His creative juices continue to flow and fans are enjoying their shows, as they always have.

In fact the band has a few dates on their calendar. The first is the Louder than Life festival in Kentucky.

And then the group returns to Vegas for the When We Were Young festival.

Tickets available on Green Day's website.

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Last updated: 9 Dec 2023, 04:29 Etc/UTC