Bands that have already existed for 25 years and sold tens of millions of records normally don't need to prove much onstage. The scenario was different for
Advancing an ambitious streak that commenced with 2004's "American Idiot," Green Day last fall planned to release a trilogy of brand-new albums over several months. Yet just as the cycle began, Armstrong went on a profanity-laced tirade at a festival. After the humiliating breakdown, he checked into rehab and admitted
Playing only seven of the new songs, and shoehorning five into the first half hour, Green Day seemingly acknowledged the tepid reception—if not the generic nature—of the recent material. Several of these tunes received extended breaks designed to stimulate audience involvement. Still, Armstrong's request for the crowd to start a wave amidst "Stay the Night" spoke volumes about the ensemble's lack of faith in its newer music's ability to connect. Aside from the marching "Oh Love," personality and punch were replaced by formula and flatness. Fortunately, Armstrong and Co. haven't forgotten how to have fun with their past.
Avoiding decisions that threatened to turn previous concerts into clichéd spectacle, Green Day lessened the bombast and sharpened its focus. No video projections, no choreographed moves, no pyrotechnics—just amplifiers and lights. Enjoying the moment, the band rediscovered its roots via goofy antics and smirking punk-pop favorites. Armstrong sang in a faux English accent, doused fans with a water canon and manned a toilet-paper gun. Members donned costume headwear for the irreverent "King for a Day," which witnessed an exchange between a saxophone and kazoo. A speedy run through 1990's "Disappearing Boy" begat impromptu covers of hits by
Green Day also forayed into political and cultural arenas. "Jesus of Suburbia" folded glam, classic rock and soul into an expressive, cohesive whole. "Holiday" and "American Idiot" rattled to head-on-a-swivel grooves, each a rallying cry for the disappointed and disenfranchised. Yet on this night, grand statements deferred to flippant attitudes and malcontent humor. Armstrong went overboard with cheerleading banter and sing-a-longs, but at least recognized the band's simple purpose.
"This is a celebration!" he yelled, demonstrating enthusiasm by jumping off speaker monitors and running around like a misfit track star. Green Day has its leader back. The harder part—moving beyond a substandard stretch and reclaiming an identity independent of nostalgia—comes next.