INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP — It may be the most mainstream of rock bands these days, even a Tony Award winner in the rarefied confines of the Great White Way, but a punk rock spirit still drives Green Day — and certainly put some fire in the group's electrifying marathon of a concert Monday night, Aug. 23 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.
Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong did, after all, promise the crowd "the best (expletive) show you've ever seen" and seemed determined to make good on that from the get-go of the two-hour and 45-minute affair.
Following AFI's spirited opening set, Armstrong established the band's own semi-anarchic ground rules by ordering fans to "get out of your seats and dance in the (expletive -- he says a lot of those) aisles" and commanding security guards to get out of the way as they gleefully rushed to the area in front of the stage. It may have been the first time Green Day was playing to a metro area venue with reserved seating in front of the stage, but Armstrong and company were not about to adhere to those kinds of rules.
But even more pronounced than the punky attitude of non-compliance was a vaudevillian sensibility to do anything to please the patrons, which resulted in one of the most entertainingly over-the-top rock shows you can imagine.
Pyrotechnics? Check. Kissing up to the crowd? Check -- with Armstrong even declaring that "we're relocating to Michigan. Michigan is (expletive) perfect!" Pressing the flesh? Indeed -- showing the flesh, too, as Armstrong mooned the crowd at one point. Confetti, water guns, toilet paper, T-shirt guns, soccer-style cheers -- all present and accounted for.
And schtick -- lots and lots of schtick.
Green Day has, in fact, mastered an ability to be nothing less than goofy without damaging its credibility, something few — make that none — of its peers has managed to pull off.
Nothing exemplified that better on Monday than the group's performance of the bouncy "King For a Day," with the band members — including auxiliary guitarist and Michigan native Jason White — donning silly hats and glasses and multi-instrumentalist Jason Freese dressing as a saxophone-playing Elvis Presley.
Each of the musicians took a turn singing the bridge portion of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" before everyone fell flat on their backs to play a medley that included the Doors' "Break on Through," Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
Earlier in the night Green Day delved into a Guitar Hero-style rock-o-rama, rolling through riffs from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," among others.
Armstrong brought several fans on stage during the show — including a couple of youths who weren't yet born when Green Day had its first hits in 1994 and a young woman who exuberantly sang the entirety of "Longview," while "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" was the trigger for a wholesale stage invasion that left a couple of women hanging onto Armstrong even as he began the next song, "2000 Light Years."
What kept everything from lapsing into pro-forma cacophony was the quality of the music and the performance of it. Punks though they may be, Green Day can play: Armstrong's guitar skills are understated, though he capably aped Eddie Van Halen during the riff medley; while bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool make sophisticated dynamics look relatively easy.
And the songs are smarter than the average punk nihilism, whether it's the cleverly phrased angst of "Longview," "Jaded," "Basket Case" and "Brain Stew" or heartfelt acoustic paeans like the show-closing couplet of "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
Some of Monday's musical highlights came from Green Day's ambitious socio-political rock operas, "American Idiot" and "21st Century Breakdown" — notably the anthemic "21 Guns" and the title track of the latter and "American Idiot's" suite-like "Jesus of Suburbia," a powerhouse that belies any notion of punk rock as simple music.
But Green Day does that with a grin, a sneer and a middle finger, and if the band truly did want to relocate to these parts, the 13,000 or so at DTE on Monday would be at the front of the welcome wagon