by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Fireworks, loud bangs, flames shooting everywhere, confetti showers, boys kissing boys, a blowjob reference. What a 4th of July party, right? Actually, it was a wild and highly energetic performance by Green Day the night before, in which 16,000 riotous fans crammed into Key Arena for two hours of rock bliss. This was the band's first official date of their 2009 tour schedule, and it proved to be a thrilling start to a long road ahead.
The award-winning threesome began their assault with the title track from the new album, 21st Century Breakdown, as an illuminated city skyline towered above the stage some 40 to 50 feet. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong took command of the performance early, standing at the edge of a short catwalk and raising his arms or striking his fists in the air periodically. Meanwhile, the first of many fireworks built into the stage went off, sounding like a parking lot of tires had all exploded at once.
"Get those hands in the air!" wailed Armstrong, and the crowd did exactly what he said. The dark eye-lined vocalist wore clothes similar to previous tour stops, black Levis with matching long-sleeve shirt and a snappy gray vest.
A furious rendition of "Know Your Enemy," the leadoff single from the new CD, ignited a series of tall flames from the stage's midsection, while the audience repeatedly shouted "Hey!" and bounced on the main floor. "Holiday" was an absolute blast and unexpectedly performed early in the show - you could hear a thunderous clap around the arena, as everyone yelled out the lyrics and the pit, just below the stage, turned into an all-out zoo.
"Who's this little shit right here?" asked Armstrong as he looked into the crowd. "Come up here!" Within seconds, a young boy was hoisted onstage by security guards and asked to lead concertgoers in a hand-waving session that ended in more startling fireworks.
Several tunes from the critically-hailed 21st Century Breakdown were introduced to fans, among them "The Static Age" and "East Jesus Nowhere," yet neither paralleled the chilling rendition of "21 Guns," which opened acoustically and gradually swept into a hard rock ballad, then ended with drummer Tre Cool tapping delicately on the piano, just as a sheet of icicle lights rained on the stage and confetti poured out to the crowd.
"This show right here is the first show of the 21st Century Breakdown!" shouted Armstrong. "And there is no better fucking place to play in than in Seattle, goddamn it, right now!" The audience roared with appreciation.
American Idiot, Green Day's Grammy-winning album from 2004, was well represented with "Jesus of Suburbia," "Are We the Waiting," "St. Jimmy," and a couple of big hits saved for the encore. Interestingly, "She's a Rebel" and "When September Ends" were not included on the set list.
On "Jesus of Suburbia," a scrawny teenager was pulled from the pit, wowing Green Day and concertgoers with his impressive guitar chops. Immediately afterwards Armstrong told everyone, "Let's do something nice for this kid." Then he quickly looked behind him and said, "Tre, suck his dick!"
The great news for diehard fans was the onslaught of old favorites, such as "Minority," "Basket Case" and "Brain Stew" - these are songs deep in Green Day's catalog that initially drew in many of their current devotees.
"Okay, who wants to hear some old shit," said Armstrong, and the trio ripped into "Geek Stink Break," which riled up concertgoers even more, followed a lively re-do of "Hitchin' a Ride" that prompted the singer to run around on stage with a large squirt gun, then ask everyone, "Is this when the masturbation begins?"
A silly, unnecessary medley of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" and Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," used in previous Green Day tours, saw the band acting squirrely onstage, donning an array of goofy hats, and basically absorbing five to six minutes that could've been used for an original song.
The most interesting point of the night came when an obnoxious male fan was invited onstage and went directly for Billie Joe's mouth - the two shared a long kiss, and the fan proceeded to sing the lead on "Longview," a song inspired by Kurt Cobain. Before departing the stage, the crazed fan shouted to the audience as he pointed to Armstrong, "Who wants to fuck this guy?!" The venue went ballistic, and as annoying as this guy was, he was the envy of many men and women in attendance who'd once dreamed of sharing a juicy kiss with this rock star, rumored to be Bisexual.
Green Day closed out their performance with a riveting three-song encore, which included "American Idiot," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and a moving, acoustic version of "Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)," a song known to many as the final signoff song from the popular TV series Seinfeld.
This was a bravura performance from an artist still climbing, still elevating its star power, and meanwhile still growing artistically and pushing its own boundaries - American Idiot is a rock classic and some would argue that 21st Century Breakdown is an even better work. The intense lighting, numerous pyrotechnics and illuminated background during the concert was a distant second to the two full hours of really good music, and on an evening when Seattle was once again at the center of attention, it was Green Day that stood at the top of the world.
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