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Green Day Brings Classic Rock Feel To U.S. Airways Show

Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong on stage at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.  See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong on stage at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Luke Holwerda

a) vaguely

or

b) obviously and irredeemably

pathetic about a 37-year-old man in skinny black jeans. So, yes, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong immediately looked a little silly strutting on stage at U.S. Airways Center as the piano-driven opening of "21st Century Breakdown," the title track to his band's latest record, played over the PA. It's forgivable though, when a band which I've argued made the last truly monumental rock album we'll ever hear delivers a stellar show. Green Day certainly delighted the near capacity Phoenix crowd, but the bloated six-man version of the Berkeley band we saw for much of the two-plus hour concert struck me as oddly similar to what you'll see at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show these days, where a lone original member playing rhythm guitar is the only thing standing between the "genuine" article and a tribute band with intellectual property rights.

Not that Green Day's show was bad. I can't say for sure that Green Day are the only truly great DIY scene punk act to successfully transform themselves into respected classic rockers, though they've got to be on a short list. But to say the band we saw -- setting off enough pyrotechnics to shame Ted Nugent, shooting a spirit squad style t-shirt launcher and making at least 30 pandering mentions to "Phoenix, Arizona" -- bears any resemblance to the one that played 924 Gilman Street nearly two decades ago, or even to the band that broke through in 1994, would be ridiculous. Green Day is now Poison, if Poison had more than four good songs.*

Green Day at U.S. Airways. See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Green Day at U.S. Airways. See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Luke Holwerda

​Hitting stage around 9 p.m., Billie, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool had three other guys playing with them, doubling the size of the original trio. The fattened version of the band had a full sound, but brilliant bassist Mike Dirnt's contributions were totally buried for the first hour of the show. Even with all the help, Billie Joe chose to yell "Phoenix, Arizona" at least five times during the first song, probably trying to generate the sort of energy you'd have seen from the band at their peak. It only partially worked. By the second song, I was squeezing out of the way so my rowmates could get beer. By "Know Your Enemy" Billie Joe had played the "watch me walk out in to the crowd" card

Green Day at U.S. Airways. See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Green Day at U.S. Airways. See more shots in our Green Day slide show.
Luke Holwerda

​Oddly, the best vibe of the night came from "Brainstew/Jaded," a weird double single off the roundly despised Insomniac which seemed to generate some warm and nostalgic feelings. "She" and "21 Guns" continued that path, while "King For a Day," done in costume with the aforementioned covers built in to the breakdown, struck me as a time waster. A crowd member again joined the band on stage for "Jesus of Suburbia," playing through some tough guitar parts and winning a big round of applause from the crowd before taking a stagedive. To end the show Billie Joe played "Good Riddance" acoustically.

Predictable, sure, but a lot better than if he'd let some audience member do it.

*Poison's four good songs: "Nothin But A Good Time," Talk Dirty To Me," "Something To Believe In," and "I Want Action."

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Green Day at U.S. Airways Arena

Better Than: Rise Against at Mesa Amp. Both acts made a mint bashing Dubya, but Green Day at least seems to be moving forward, boiling the American Idiot era down to a few songs and building it in to a larger narrative about the end of America. Which actually brings up another point: Where was "Last of the American Girls," the best song on 21st Century Breakdown?

Personal Bias: Extremely pro-Green Day. As I wrote in my column this week, their Dookie tour was my first ever "real" show and I've followed the band's career closely since.

Random Detail: Why were the video screens used so sparingly in the first half of the show? Were there technical problem or was it a planned element, meant to emphasize this was live? Billie Joe did say, "This is not a computer screen!" at one point, which makes me suspect the later. Still, after Tool, I'm a little sick of the screenless thing.

Further Listening: I've always enjoyed "Having A Blast," but would it fly in a post-Columbine world?


By The Way: It's been a long week.

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