Billie Joe Armstrong 'Glad to Be Alive' at Green Day's Boston Club Show
"I'm just happy to be alive!" proclaimed Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong on Oct. 1 at Boston's House of Blues, where the pop-punk band ripped through a blistering, hits-packed 27-song set for the sold-out crowd. The declaration, a nod to his sobriety, came five songs in -- during the chart-topping, Grammy winning "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," from the band's career-defining 2004 smash album, American Idiot. But though he has sobered up, Armstrong and the rest of the band -- including core members bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool -- haven't slowed down.
The show was originally scheduled to be Green Day's seventh stop on an 11-city club tour in support of its latest album, Revolution Radio (due Oct. 7), until the band postponed three of its first shows (and canceled a fourth, in Toronto) due to unspecified illness. Those lucky enough to snag tickets were treated to an arena-size performance filled with such hits as "Basket Case," "Holiday" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." But they were also witness to Armstrong's triumphant return to the spotlight after a four-year absence following an onstage meltdown in 2012 that led to him entering rehab for prescription drug and alcohol dependence. In a year that saw Prince succumb to an opioid overdose, Armstrong's recovery and redemption was not lost on him or the audience.
Although Dirnt and Cool did their part to work the capacity crowd of 2,200, it was Armstrong who whipped concert-goers into a frenzy with his flamboyant posturing and constant call-and-response requests, especially during fan favorites "St. Jimmy" and "Jesus of Suburbia." The 44-year-old frontman raced around the stage and jumped off amps as if it were still 1994, the year that the band's breakthrough album Dookie was released. During the show opener, "Know Your Enemy," he pulled a fan up to take his first stage dive and, later, to take over the mic when he "forgot" the lyrics to the band's breakout hit "Longview." He threw T-shirts into the balcony and made sure to hold his signature poses -- guitar held high or arms outstretched as if hanging from a cross -- just long enough for everyone to snap the perfect cell phone photo.
The general admission pit swirled, people crowd-surfed, little kids climbed onto their fathers' shoulders to get a better look while scantily-clad women tried the same tactic in an effort to get Armstrong's attention (one even threw her bra in his face during "St. Jimmy") and grown men were reduced to screaming "I love you, Billie Joe!" Armstrong returned the love by grinning from ear-to-ear throughout the show and telling the crowd, "I am sincerely having a good time."
During one of the older cuts, "2000 Light Years Away" from Kerplunk, Armstrong was quick to point out that someone in the audience had lit a joint: "I smell drugs right now. Hey, I get a freebie." But it wasn't just all fun and games. As he has during earlier shows on the tour, Armstrong peppered the show with political commentary. During such provocative tracks as "Holiday" and "Minority," Armstrong declared that everyone should be "sick of the lies" spread by cable news channels. And he urged the crowd to "get out to vote," adding: "Say no to racism, no to sexism, no to homophobia! Treat everyone with kindness. We see so much hatred 24 hours a day [on the news], but tonight we are gathered here because we want love and peace -- and we want it now! Don't f---ing vote for Donald Trump!"
For a career that has spanned three decades and includes a 2015 induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, two hours and 15 minutes ultimately proved too short of a set to squeeze in everything the band has to offer. Of the 27 songs they played, four were new -- three from Revolution Radio (the title track, "Bang Bang" and "Still Breathing") and the title track from Armstrong's upcoming film, Ordinary World (his first starring role, out Oct. 14). Green Day staples like "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "21 Guns" were missing, and deep cuts were lacking, which had some audience members scratching their heads over the band's decision to include a medley of classic covers -- the Isley Brothers' "Shout," The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and The Beatles' "Hey Jude" -- but most of the audience did not seem all that bothered. "Who cares?" said a 20-something fan who was sweating profusely from pogo-ing and fist-pumping for two solid hours. "This is the best show ever!"
After a raucous first encore of "American Idiot" and "Jesus of Suburbia," which, thanks to the crowd's last-ditch enthusiasm, seemingly shook the foundation of the venue, the second encore was all about Armstrong and his connection with the audience. It was just him onstage with an acoustic guitar singing what is arguably the band's biggest hit, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," and soaking it all up, as if reaffirming that this was his night.