The California three-piece of Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar/vocals), Mike Dirnt (bassist) and Tre Cool (drummer) ran through 25 years of hits as part of its tour to promote their latest album, Revolution Radio. The spectacle included fireworks, pyrotechnics and plenty of sing-alongs throughout the two hours-plus set list. The well-received production showcased exactly how far the scrappy band of punks have come since modest underground band beginnings.
Judging from the energy of the crowd, Green Day is in the midst of another resurgence, a remarkable feat for a group that boasts several generation-defining albums. The band is always at its best when there is something to protest, going back to the suburban lethargy of 1994’s Dookie, and anti-George W. Bush era masterpiece American Idiot from 2004. The recent release of Revolution Radio, a call-to-arms against today’s current political and social climate proves it a great time to be a Green Day fan.
It’s a welcome return for a group whose future was up in the air only a few years ago. The band went on hiatus following a grueling string of tours and the release of unfocused trilogy Uno! Dos! Tre! that saw Armstrong breaking down during a Las Vegas appearance, followed by a stint in rehab. They returned reinvigorated with a killer performance at their Rock and Rock Hall of Fame induction in 2015, which led to their best effort in over a decade in Revolution Radio.
Following a searing set by Florida four-piece, Against Me!, Armstrong and company — beefed up by three additional musicians —opened with singles “Know Your Enemy,” and “Bang Bang.” The opener set the tone for the night which included a lot of interaction between the band and crowd, with Armstrong bringing a young boy on stage aptly wearing what looked like a Jeff Sessions mask to sing-along. It would be the first of three times Armstrong pulled audience members onstage to either sing or play guitar.
As a band that has been so vocal about resisting the current President and his administration, it was no surprise Green Day relied heavily on protest tracks from American Idiot and their latest record. At times, the performance veered from rally to religious revival to Las Vegas revue with a positive message of inclusiveness throughout. Armstrong launched into near sermons during several songs, imploring folks to fight against bullies, ignore the negativity of the media and embrace our differences.
“We are here together,” he said during “Letterbomb.” “It doesn’t matter what religion you practice or if you’re atheist, straight or gay. What matters is we’re here together.”
And while the overall stage production couldn’t hide a workman-like level of professionalism that only comes with years in the business, the goofy playfulness that defined Green Day’s early years came out from time to time. A melody of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” The Rolling Stones’ ”Satisfaction,” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was performed in costumes and, at one point, with the entire band lying down on stage.
Perhaps most endearing is how the band’s impact has crossed generations. There were many parents in attendance with their teenagers and pre-pubescent children, many of who were actual Green Day fans and not merely chaperones, who cheered quite vocally for older material, such as the still great Dookie cuts “Basket Case,” “She” and “When I Come Around.” But it was quite obvious that many of the younger audience members became aware of Green Day through American Idiot and its subsequent Broadway hit show with the biggest singalongs coming on tracks such as “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and the mini-suite of the night’s encore, “Jesus of Suburbia.”
“I’ve loved them for over 20 years,” said Corwin Moczygemba, a middle aged father alongside his son, Ian, both in matching Green Day T-shirts. “I remember watching them at Woodstock in ’94. Holy s***, I’m old.”
If there were any criticism to be had, it was that Armstrong and company tried a bit too hard to keep the energy levels high throughout the evening. Certain gimmicks worked— a water spray hose to the front of the pit and a T-shirt gun were charming — but too many call and responses grew somewhat tiresome. And if we didn’t know which city we lived in, we do now after Armstrong reminded us that we were indeed in “Houston, Texas!” a dozen times throughout the show.
Overall, it was a fantastic rush through the catalogue of one of the most dynamic and fun bands of the last 25 years, one whose lasting appeal is only renewed by the current state of the nation, one that needs more champions for the outcasts and misfits. Following a few years in the wilderness, Green Day is back in full attack mode and we should all be thankful.