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Live review: Green Day at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

GreenDayStory Billie Joe Armstrong and company reinforce their scrappy punk status at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, inviting fans to come on stage and sing along.

Heads up, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman: You may be in for some unexpected company come November.

“I’m running for governor of California!” Billie Joe Armstrong revealed Tuesday night at Irvine’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, where Green Day played one of the final dates of its U.S. tour in support of last year’s “21st Century Breakdown.”

That this announcement came not long after the frontman declared (in slightly saltier language) that he’s a rock star and can therefore do whatever the heck he wants was no cause for worry: Armstrong is a benevolent despot who encourages fans to join him onstage and launches free merchandise into the cheap seats with an air-powered T-shirt gun.

The singer’s introduction into state politics would present another problem, though: the early retirement of what might be America’s best live band.

Green Day is riding as high as it ever has this year, thanks in large part to the success of “American Idiot,” the Broadway adaptation of its 2004 album of the same name. And in Irvine the Oakland-based outfit — filled out to a six-piece with auxiliary players on guitars, keyboards and other instruments — seemed determined to prove that its theatrical streak runs deep.

Towering columns of fire erupted behind drummer Tré Cool during “Give Me Novacaine.” A video-screen backdrop depicted the ruins of a city skyline in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” And confetti sprayed skyward as the band concluded its main set with an accordion-enriched version of its 2000 hit “Minority.”

Yet Tuesday’s three-hour show also emphasized the vitality of Green Day’s connection to its scrappy punk-scene roots. In older songs such as “Burnout” and “When I Come Around,” both from the group’s 1994 breakout, “Dookie,” Armstrong and his bandmates did what they were doing long before they graduated to arenas and stadiums, bashing out their hard-pop tunes with fat-free efficiency. Only the energy had been upped to suit the needs of a capacity crowd of more than 15,000.

In another nod to those cozy dive-bar days, Armstrong repeatedly invited audience members to take over his vocal duties, most memorably in “Longview,” Green Day’s first big single. The frontman’s initial pick flamed out after one verse, but her successor sang the rest of the song with an awestruck enthusiasm that collectivized the band’s superstardom while reinforcing it at the same time.

When the young man finished, he held out the microphone toward Armstrong, but Armstrong declined to take it back, obviously enjoying the sight of an ordinary kid temporarily granted extraordinary power. Following his idol’s earlier example, the fan mounted Cool’s drum riser and then leaped off it as Armstrong looked on approvingly.

Talk about noblesse oblige.

By Mikael Wood, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Photo: Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong performs at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (3)

It was one of the best concerts I have every been to. I have not see a band play that long without a break and they were pulling up fans making their dreams to be a rockstar come true.

Saw Green Day in Dallas on the 26th. They try hard not to show up and give the routine, "just another stop on the tour" concert. In doing, they succeed exponentially in giving us fans an incredible experience. Was lucky enough to weasel my way to the front of the pit, ten feet from center stage. This is punk rock man, the band is running all over the stage, jumping off speakers, doing crazy stage antics, pulling audience members up on stage, pyrotechnics going off, outstanding! And all the while serving up your favorite hard punching tunes with precision. Enough to make you consider driving across the country to the next show. Thanks Billie, Mike and Tré, outstanding!

I can honestly say that after over 30 years of concert-going this band consistently puts me in AWE. BJ's voice a little shredded that night but overall and incredible event every time. The crowd becomes an instrument at these shows. Frankly, it's the closest thing to an actual religious experience that this 43 year old lawyer has ever known. I hope GD realizes we all appreciate these incredible tours. Thank you.


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