You realize how long Green Day has been around (and how many hits they’ve scored) when you ogle their audience Monday night at the Verizon-Wireless-Amphitheatre-at-Encore-Park in Alpharetta.and see hundreds of Moms and Dads in their 30s, 40s and 50s bringing their children — and even grandchildren — to see the venerable punk rock band.
Is Green Day punk? How can a punk band sell 15 million copies of its major label debut? What punk band writes an opera that gets produced on Broadway?
And if Green Day is punk, what were all these little kids doing out on a school night, shoving their fists in the air while Mom and Dad smiled on? Shouldn’t they be cheering Justin Bieber over in Gwinnett?
Maybe not. It’s all rock and roll, very catchy, inflammatory rock and roll, that can seem like a Molotov cocktail one minute and a high school graduation ceremony the next.
The contrast between the wholesome audience (more Izods and haircuts than tattoos and piercings) and the heretical lyrics reached a peak moment, right after “East Jesus Nowhere,” when leader Billie Joe Armstrong staged a burlesque faith healing with a chubby cheeked pre-schooler that he brought up from the audience. The boy, named Zane, endured the event with a face as still as an Aztec frieze. “Zane,” said Armstrong. “You’re insane.”
The crowd, somewhere slightly shy of a 12,000 sellout, ate it up. They were promised the best show of their lives, and they looked like they were getting it. (Actually, Armstrong promised them the best blanking show of their lives, using a modifier that would be his favorite through the evening. He never stopped exhorting the audience — “Get those hands up in the air!” — and he eventually got them to break a sweat.
Did the F-bombs bother Dad and Mom? Not so’s you would notice.
“They’ve been to summer camp,” said Susan Polay, by way of explanation – meaning that her son Samuel, and his friend Dylan, both 12, have heard those words before.
“Eve has already passed the apple,” said father Robert Polay.
Samuel was just weeks before his bar mitzvah, but Green Day in Alpharetta was his first big rock show, and perhaps, said his mother, a rite of passage almost as significant as the upcoming religious ceremony. “Tonight he is a man.”
Despite the coarse language there was plenty of show business shtick to keep the whole family happy. After an opening set by AFI, Green Day came on shortly after 8 p.m., bringing the audience at the outdoor venue to its feet. Armstrong invited audience members onstage to sing, cooled off the first 10 rows with spray from two powerful hoses, and then entered a middle section that was sort of a rock and roll medley from hell.
After “When I Come Around,” he strung together bits of “Iron Man,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and that Rock Band video game staple, “Eye of the Tiger.”
(Green Day now has its own edition of the Rock Band game.)
After “Insomnia,” Armstrong shelled the audience with a T-shirt bazooka, sprayed them with a toilet paper gun, and then, improbably, turned a chunk of the evening over to that frat-party standard, “Shout.”
Drummer Tre’ Cool came forward, sang and did some high-kicking, the band worked its way down onto the floor, and played another medley while supine, incorporating “Stand By Me,” “Satisfaction,” “Hey Jude,” and (with side-man Jason Freese on saxophone) even a little “Yakety Sax.”)
The core Green Day – Armstrong on vocals and guitar, Cool on drums and Mike Dirnt on bass – are supplemented on this tour by Freese on keyboards, and Jason White and Jeff Matika on guitars.
But the force of nature in the band is Armstrong, who never stops and whose bullet-proof voice only begins to show wear and tear into the third hour of the show, when he took up an acoustic guitar to play the show closer, a solo version of “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life)”
“They’re keeping punk alive,” said Nora Caudle, who came up from Scottsboro, Ala., with her daughter and her great-nephew to see the band.