Now that’s how you throw a party!
Within the first 24 minutes of Green Day’s sold out three-hour marathon at Molson Amphitheatre Wednesday night, singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong had:
a) Engaged the audience in several sing-and-clap-a-longs;
b)Run through the crowd with his guitar so the people in Section 300 could get a close look at him;
c) Invited several folks onstage to share the microphone, and
d) Sacrificed a virgin.
And then the show really kicked into gear.
For Armstrong, dressed in a black shirt, white tie, red-striped jeans and running shoes, the Green Day philosophy for the evening was share and share alike. He made the fans work as hard – if not harder – than the six musicians in front of them, rallying the crowd right from the very first notes of “21st Century Breakdown,” and refusing to let up for the next 180 minutes.
Taking no prisoners, he demanded that the audience members “stand the f$%* up” and “get those hands in the air,” and often had them serenading the band through such classics as “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,” “Minority,” and a goofy medley that incorporated Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” a few chords of Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato,” Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell,” as they engaged in a little tomfoolery.
“This is your night!” Armstrong yelled, and a series of deafening explosions followed – a pattern that would be repeated throughout the evening, as Green Day delivered more pyro – fireworks, fireballs, what have you – then you’d find at a dozen KISS blowouts.
And when it came to the music, the band – which included core trio members Armstrong, Mike Dirnt on bass and the ever sturdy Tre Cool on drums supplemented by guitarist Jason White, keyboardist Jason Freese and rhythm guitarist and singer Jeff Matika – delivered everything but the kitchen sink in terms of what any Green Day fan would want to hear.
There were more than 30 high-octane punk-flavored rockers and ballads, including healthy chunks of American Idiot that included a meaty version of “Give Me Novacaine” and a soaring rendition of “Are We The Waiting,” (with a searing “American Idiot” and a jubilant “Jesus of Suburbia” driving the encore home); a generous sampling of Dookie via the pent-up “Basket Case,” a reflective “When I Come Around” and a motoring “Longview” that wasn’t sung by the band at all, but by a guy in a white vest that Armstrong had invited from the crowd.
The man in his 20s more or less remained in tune as he realized his rock ‘n roll dream, entertaining 16,000 people with some slight coaching by Armstrong. For his efforts, Armstrong gave him a black and white electric guitar that matched his suit.
Green Day also dipped as far back into its history as Kerplunk!, and as they ripped through “2000 Light Years Away,” more than 30 people mobbed Armstrong on stage at his invitation, crowding around him as he sang the chorus into the microphone, cameras flashing from on-stage participants shocked to find themselves sharing such intimate space.
But if there was a message that Green Day seemed intent on delivering, it was that rock and punk music is not for the elite; it’s for everyone.
As for the virgin sacrifice, it was a nine-year-old kid named Sawyer whom Armstrong conscripted for “East Jesus Nowhere,” “saving” him by placing his hand to his forehead and “shocking” the sin out of him.
But that’s really what the night was about: having fun and sharing the true spirit of rock ‘n roll.
It was a five-star gesture that the audience members aged 6 to 60 truly appreciated, and, as far as concerts go, simply one of the best.