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Green Day Kick Off U.S. Tour


Attention aspiring rock stars: Get good seats for the Green Day tour and you might end up ripping a solo on Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar. If you’re really lucky, you’ll even plant a slobbery smooch on the punked-out frontman’s face.

(See a photo gallery of the show here.)

During Friday night’s two-hour, tour-launching set at Seattle’s Key Arena, Armstrong pulled onstage no less than six ecstatic fans from the front row and gave each the spotlight, for better or worse. A sold-out crowd of 16,000 looked on as one dude laid a long, lingering kiss on Armstrong’s mouth, then took hold of the mic and asked, “Who wants to fuck this guy???” before belting all of “Longview” like the song was his.

Later, Armstrong handed off his axe to a tall, gawky teenager he pulled from the pit — “You know ‘Jesus of Suburbia,’ swear to God?” — and let the kid run, note-perfect, through all of the American Idiot epic.

These are moments lifelong fans are made of.

Say what you want about Green Day’s methods or motivation. The band’s relationship with its audience is disarmingly real, a cross-generational give-and-take that’s as punk as any Gilman Street scroungers today. The scale is different, sure, but at this point Green Day traffics only in massive gestures and universal emotions — exaggerated and operatic and goofy, so that every last, proud American idiot knows exactly where the band is coming from.

Green Day unleashed all the high points of their recently released album, 21st Century Breakdown, the best bits of Grammy-winning American Idiot, plus the old classics — like 1995’s “Brain Stew.” Backed for the new songs by an extra pair of rhythm guitarists and an organ player, Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool rocked around a 50-foot-tall digital cityscape backdrop with enough pyrotechnics to ignite an early Independence Day.

They even swerved into R&B territory with a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout!” and Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me.”

Armstrong played ringleader to the adoring audience, condensing 30 years of arena rock grandstanding into the set with big hard-hitting rockers like “Know Your Enemy” and “East Jesus Nowhere.” After that, it was just a matter of crowd control, and at that Armstrong was Picasso.

“Put the cell phones away,” he said at one point. “If they’re not here right now, fuck ’em. This is our moment right now.”

Green Day setlist:
“21st Century Breakdown”
“Know Your Enemy”
“East Jesus Nowhere”
“Static Age”
“Before the Lobotomy”
“Are We Waiting”
“Geek Stink Breath”
“Hitchin’ a Ride”
“Brain Stew”
“Basket Case”
“King For A Day/Shout”
“Stand By Me”
“21 Guns”
“American Eulogy”

“American Idiot”
“Jesus of Suburbia”
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong / Photo by Alex Crick