Green Day: Live Last Night

greendayGreen Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

Live Last Night

By Chris Klimek

Do-It-Yourself is forever cited as the governing mantra of punk , and it inspired Green Day leader Billie Joe Armstrong to put his own band together 20-plus years ago. But on the evidence of the sturdy Bay Area trio's combustible circus at the Verizon Center last night, Armstrong's progression from Buzzcocks-style petulance to Townshendian revolution rock has had at least one side effect: He's discovered the benefits of outsourcing.

In a stunt that felt more "American Idol" than "American Idiot," the 37-year-old guyliner-wearing frontman summoned a half-dozen fans onstage. There were the two dudes he invited, separately, to sing competing versions of "Longview," the 1994 megahit that brought punk's DIY ethos into the bedroom. Later, he pulled a sweat-soaked young comer in white tube socks up to play guitar on "Jesus of Suburbia." The kid's awkward appearance made it feel twice as triumphant when he nailed the song.

In between, there was the woman Armstrong deputized to cool off the churning mosh pit with a super soaker while he opened fire on the arena's upper decks with a T-shirt cannon. What would St. Joe Strummer think?

"Brilliant!," probably.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Sure, the "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" shtick has been in the Green Day playbook for years, but who cares? It's a gimmick worth keeping, responsible for some of the most exhilarating movements of a 2.5-hour gig that felt Springsteenian in its length and giddy populism, and KISS-like in its frequent detonation of explosive ordnance.

Ably balancing audience rapport with superbly executed arena rock bombast, the concert affirmed that Armstrong, Dirnt & Cool (discreetly backed by three additional players) are as good as anybody at making sure you've got enough showbiz for a cavernous arena, while leaving room for spontaneity and a little chaos. The ensemble was tight enough to whip the show back into line whenever one of Armstrong's digressions threatened to derail what was often a sprint, towards fist-pumping release.

Now deep into the second act opened by its Grammy-winning 2004 concept album "American Idiot," Green Day resurfaced this year with the long-percolating "21st Century Breakdown," another rock opera about two kids trying to navigate a nation in decline.

Yep, rock operas are back. But while the Decemberists have chosen the riskier route of performing their new story-album front-to-back, Green Day structured their gig more conventionally. They mixed seven new songs into a career-spanning brain stew that found room for Clinton-era standards like "Basket Case," "She," and, er, "Brain Stew," all aging just fine. For the diehards, there were two from the group's salad days, "2000 Light Years Away," and a solo-acoustic "Christie Road."

It may have felt like overreach when Armstrong demanded, "Who wants to be saved tonight?" But whenever one of his audience recruits tried to slink behind the monitors, Armstrong gently nudged him back into the spotlight, and ordered each one to make his exit via stage-dive. So what if Armstrong dropped a few dozen more F-bombs than were strictly necessary? There walks a positive role model for our youth.

By David Malitz |  July 30, 2009; 3:54 PM ET Live Last Night
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I was there and it was all that and a cookie. I think they even managed to nudge Springsteen off the stage in terms of showmanship combined with music. Just incredible. I hope they come back for another round late this year or early next year.

Posted by: EricS2 | July 30, 2009 4:12 PM


If I could see that every night, I would. You will not find better. You will not.

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | July 30, 2009 4:35 PM

Sorry EricS2, as I texted to a fellow Springsteen & Green Day fan on the other side of the arena last night: "On the showman scale from 1 to 10 (with Springsteen being a 10), Billie Joe comes in at a solid 2.9".

It was a great show, but it's SO annoying that EVERY song he has to yell "Washington D.C.!" multiple times in the middle of the song. I mean, come on.

Posted by: njdvlsrule | July 30, 2009 7:34 PM

Well, to each their own. I thought he was awesome. Total 10.

Posted by: EricS2 | July 31, 2009 1:34 AM

Oh, come on! Billie Joe is masterful not only his music but his showmanship and controling the audience as well. I loved every minute and I didn't mind the "Washington, DC bit". I think it is refreshing to see an artist willing to share the stage and attention with a couple of kids that will never forget the memory! I loved it and my son will likely never forget his first concert. My wish would be they return and play another venue. This is the second time I have seen the band at the Verizon Center and really the acoustics stink.

Posted by: notadayover40 | July 31, 2009 9:37 PM

I thought the sound was pretty good. A show in Baltimore would be awesome, but IMP doesn't do shows there since it's exclusively programed by SMG/LiveNation and Green Day will only work with Seth around here. I don't think they want to do the Patriot Center again either, so VCenter's it unless they wanna go really small and go to DAR.

Posted by: EricS2 | July 31, 2009 11:51 PM

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