3/21/2013 8:29 AM
There's been more than enough said publicly about Billie Joe Armstrong and the events of last year, leading to some personal re-tooling. Suffice it to say, past is past, but it's now that counts. This much-anticipated return of the Bay Area power-punk trio was the talk of SXSW before Thursday night at the Austin City Limits Moody Theater, and that excitement certainly carried over into a true rock-and-roll comeback event that wouldn't let up.
Billie Joe led the band onstage like a platoon of Marines hitting a beach head, launching into the show with those ever-seducing big power chords and crisp vocals through a pristine sound system. From first drum count-in to the last fading bath of feedback, band and audience melded into one huge, super-entertaining block party. Totally animated, fit, and ready to rock, Billie Joe announced "This is not a f***ing party, this is not a first date, it's not a bar mitvah...it's a celebration!"And celebrate they did.
Green Day didn't just play to the audience, they took them in like a long-awaited reunion with much-loved friends. At one point early in the show, Armstrong sat down on the drum riser, face in hands, overwhelmed by his fans' loving response and obviously thrilled that things were going so well, immensely enjoying his own personal transformation. Several times during the show, he pulled stunned fans from the audience to sing, one of them even performing in sign language from the stage (SXSW had placed sign language interpreters at some venues), and encouraging them to performing trusting stage dives in the audience. Segues into bits of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and Guns & Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" added to the carnival-meets-rock-spectacle moments, including Tré Cool's rendition of R&B singalong classic "Shout"—dressed in drag. with the band leaving the stage before encores to the coda of "Hey Jude" playing through the PA, every voice in the audience singing along and grinning from ear to ear.
The band's hits and concert favorites were all there, along with newer material from last year's three-album simultaneous release of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!. Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool's solid lock on the beat, along with killer extra players adding guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals propelled the band's tight, loud vibe into the hearts of audience members from the front of the stage to the farthest seats in the balcony.
Any rock-and-roll fan could easily think of a dozen acts that take themselves too seriously; however, I doubt that anyone's list would include Green Day. The band proved not only that they're back, but back carrying a huge gift of fun. As the last song "Minority" led into the concert's finale, the look of enthusiastic accomplishment held true on every band member's face, and on the smiles and in the loud cheers from an audience not just served, but embraced.