The fun, punk rockers, Green Day, made its triumphant return to Seattle over the weekend playing an explosive (literally) two-hour set to a near capacity crowd Friday night at KeyArena.
The trio, singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, drummer Tré Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt, all wearing black, sauntered onto the roomy stage, backlit by a computerized city nightscape, and immediately lit into the surfer-like title track from its second rock opera "21st Century Breakdown," which sent the crowd of kids and adults on the main floor bobbing and jumping in unison.
For a solid two hours, which included a five-minute break between the main set and the encore, the band played the majority of their new record injecting hits from their earlier records here and there, and exclamating them with concussive cannon fire, plumes of orange flames, showers of sparks and a blizzard of confetti.
The sparkling display was apt on the eve of Independence Day but was also weirdly nostalgic, and it was hard to tell if all the pyrotechnics were Green Day making fun of itself and "hair bands" from the late 1980s or honestly celebrating the era. Either way the display nicely adorned the high energy of the music and most certainly Armstrong, the diminutive front man (approaching 40 years of age) whose verve and crackle never ceased. As if part of a sped-up film reel, Armstrong strutted about the stage imploring the audience to scream, throw its hands in the air and do the wave.
Armstrong added to the interplay by inviting a few audience members up on stage. The first was a boy no more than 10 years old (what was he doing crushed up in the pit in the first place?). Then came a teenage girl who danced and sang out of tune and kissed Armstrong repeatedly. Armstrong was surprised by a long, full-on-the-lips kiss by a zealous male fan wearing a U.S. Post Office shirt who helped sing "Longview" before leaping off the stage.
Easily one of the more notable moments of the show on par with the high-energy and the seamless musicianship, was when Armstrong invited a teen boy on stage to help him play "Jesus of Suburbia," the five-part overture to the band's premiere operatic venture, "American Idiot." To the astonishment of the band and audience members, the kid knew all the chords, played in time and moved around on stage like he was born there. After the song, Armstrong implored, "Would somebody please do something nice for this guy," to which the crowd cheered in wild disbelief.
On top of great musicianship and Armstrong's crisp tenor, Green Day's attraction, (the band has sold more than 22 million records) is its ability to put infectious hooks into their songs. "21st Century Breakdown" is no exception. The crowd turned "Know Your Enemy," "21 Guns" and the title track (and really the rest of the tunes on the 20-plus-song set) into arena singalongs. And there is something to be said about a band that can do that even after 20 years on the road.