Green Day’s performance at the Venue Formerly Known As Great Woods (Xfinity Center) on August 28th was so powerful Billie Joe Armstrong’s stage presence would make Dave Grohl look like Burt Bacharach by comparison. Their set before a capacity crowd in Mansfield, Mass was in support of their latest release, Revolution Radio, but the material covered the entirety of a career that dates back to dawn of the Berkeley-bred punk scene.
Their status as the most commercially successful punk band of all time has never been in question and while that label has led old guard punks to question their bonafides, the intensity of Armstrong’s showmanship was enough to shut up even the most cynical of critics. Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool are all in their mid-40’s and while the hair dye may be covering up their age a bit, their physical prowess as showmen runs contrary to everything we know about human physiology. Armstrong never stopped running around the stage and Dirnt can still dive in the air with his bass and get the hang time he nailed in his 20’s. As performers, they’ve only gotten more active with age. In light of Armstrong’s well-publicized health problems a few years back, his conditioning is especially impressive.
During their heyday, Green Day’s stage presence had a much more twitchy, spastic vibe and it’s a big part of what made them such a formidable live act. What they do today isn’t as eccentric but demonstrates a professional maturity that has made them even better than the band that got pelted with mud at Woodstock ’94. Any arena-scale act can get folks in the front waving their arms and clapping along but in Mansfield, Armstrong literally had crowd in the back completely engaged. He encouraged the crowd to cheer by saying, “Come on New England, you invented America! You know what to do!” Prior to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” he sent out a message of solidarity to the people of Houston.
Armstrong invited multiple members of the crowd to join him on stage throughout the night and the teenager who played guitar during Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge” got to keep the instrument he was playing. Plenty of performers from Bono to Prince have been known to bring a ticket holder on stage for a moment or two but what makes Green Day different is they’re inviting kids to actually perform with them. It wasn’t a coincidence that Armstrong was inviting kids with blue and green hair. You really got the feeling he’s on a personal mission to fulfill the rock star fantasy of the kids he sees his younger self in.
The trio was assisted by a keyboardist and a pair of guitarists to help fill out the sound from their more recent albums but when it came to playing any of the songs they performed off 1994’s Dookie, they mostly stuck to the original lineup. Armstrong even used the self-decorated, Sky Blue Fender Stratocaster that he originally performed the tunes on.
They had a young crowd and the parking lot had plenty of chaperones waiting for the show to end but there were still plenty of older fans in attendance that grew up with Green Day. There was a clear generational divide you could hear in the response to their different material. The kids born Post-9/11 were frothing for the new material whereas the 30+ crowd was all about the pre-American Idiot material.
Green Day has been rocking arenas long enough that nobody was going to be surprised that they put on a killer live show but even folks who went in with high expectations left the show floored. They served up two and a half hours of discography spanning material and did it with even greater physicality than they did as the kids who made those early albums. The trio’s on-stage stamina rivals that of Mick Jagger in his prime and Armstrong’s voice hasn’t given an inch over the last thirty years. He’s easily the most animated frontman on stage in 2017 and the Dave Grohl’s of the world are going to have to deal with that.