Over the span of its 30-year career, Green Day has gone from a snotty punk trio to a full-fledged arena rock act with a shelf full of Grammys, Tony awards and its own plaque in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On Saturday night at a crowded American Airlines Center, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool showcased gems from each of the phases in their storied career during the course of a dramatic, breakneck two- hour plus performance.
Though the band has made headlines over the years for railing against George W. Bush and, more recently, Donald Trump, Saturday night's gig was about the healing power of rock 'n' roll. While Armstrong, dressed in black skinny jeans, black vest and a black shirt with white polka dots, tirelessly bounced and mugged across the stage, his message of unity was ever-present.
Armstrong yelled that "No racism, no fascism, and no homophobia," would be welcome at this show. That sentiment surely carries a political connotation these days, but so much of punk music, and especially the early works from Green Day, has long fought hate and ignorance through a lens of alienation, hopelessness and uncertainty.
It's worth noting that the opening act, Florida punk outfit Against Me!, led by Laura Jane Grace, the brilliant, powerful transgender lead singer once named Tom Gabel, blistered through a quick early set. Given her advocacy of LGBTQ rights, Grace could've made her show a political one, but instead she let the band's flawless catalog do the talking.
It was beyond refreshing to hear early-era songs such as "She," "Basket Case" and the 26-year old "2000 Light Years Away." In the elaborate arena-rock setting, with massive flames shooting from the stage and perfectly-timed cannon-like blasts, the pop-punk tunes that made them famous felt both fresh and familiar. New songs from last year's fine Revolution Radio such as "Bang Bang" also impressed in the same way.
Continuing the long tradition of bringing fans on stage to play along, Armstrong made the dreams of three different youngsters come true at different points. During the opening song, "Know Your Enemy," a boy bravely shouted the words, and then sheepishly dove off the stage onto the outstretched hands of the crowd. And during "Longview," the 1994 single that put the group on the map, a teen not only sang with abandon, but was all-too ready for his own stage dive.
Near the end of the night, during the group's cover of "Knowledge," by Operation Ivy, one of the Green Day's Bay Area punk heroes, a pre-teen-looking girl was brought on stage. After Armstrong fixed the guitar around her neck, she proceeded to shred and shout with glee and confidence. It was a goosebump moment made even more so when a glowing Armstrong told her she could keep the guitar. The cheers for that moment were louder than for any of the iconic tunes or the couple of anti-Trump remarks.
Songs from the group's rock opera phase were tailor-made for big rooms, with the "Are We the Waiting," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and "St. Jimmy," each from the band's 2004 opus American Idiot, successfully relaying an epic, ocean-sized vision of rock 'n' roll that isn't confined by simple genre labels.
Closing out the show with a second encore, Armstrong performed perhaps the band's all-time biggest hit, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." As much as any other Green Day tune, this 1997 gem was the sign of a punk band growing up, long before Broadway plays and presidential protests helped define them.
Alone on the stage with only an acoustic guitar, Armstrong led the packed house in a raw-boned sing-along that, as much as any other moment of the triumphant evening, proved just how the right band with the right song, even in the most divisive of times, can unify the masses for at least one night.
Check out the gallery below for more photos from the concert.