“Who’s your fucking daddy?” shouted Billie Joe Armstrong as he leapt onto a stage monitor and exuberantly goaled the packed arena for affirmation and overwhelming respect. The singer, songwriter and guitarist of Green Day was making a pit-stop in Motown as part of a co-headlining circuit across the country with fellow megastars Blink 182, currently on the road for MTV’s Pop-Disaster Tour. With everything from an onstage petting zoo of performers to their timeless musical talent, Armstrong’s Green Day stood triumphant upon their throne as incumbent crown to their pop-punk subjects.
In perhaps an exultant display of Green Day’s carefree rule, a giant pink bunny strutted on stage to introduce the band, and after jauntily tossing away the beer bottle it’s been nursing, pulled out a healthy-sized glass bong and puffed up a big one amid raucous applause from the oh-so-impressionable teenage audience.
It was indeed a rather uneasy spectacle for even a 19 year-old, to see The Palace breaking out from the heaving masses of prepubescent youth. Perhaps it was the draw of Blink 182 that sent idol-worshipping freshmen girls to plead that their mommies and daddies drive them there, or perhaps, as it was whimsically noted by Green Day’s frontman after the opening song, a new half-generation have been assimilated into the deity’s kingdom.
Amid flashing lights, 10 foot tall columns of flames and a gradient backdrop adorned with a border of cinematic, incandescent flashing bulbs, Green Day rolled through one hit after another. The Green Day banner was also unleashed mid-way through the set to reveal an equally glittery, giant pop-tastic LED of the band’s name. Crowd-pleasers such as “Hitchin’ A Ride” from 1997’s Nimrod produced earthshaking, rhythmic anthems – a brilliant choice for the riotous crowd of arena rock.
The magic for Green Day was that they produced such a large amount of hits. Hits that the audience knew the words to and was able to sing along to, for the pomp and majesty of the music did not drown out Armstrong’s crisp voice. The show was not simply a performance, but a revival for the old-school following and a baptism for the virgin fans. Armstrong repeatedly super-soaked the crowd-surfing floor of young devotees between and during songs with a comical-sized pump-action water gun, and even resorting to projecting bursts of mineral water from the band’s own refreshment stash.
The band’s onstage antics were complimented by their double-take attire, with Armstrong dressed in black with a skinny silver tie and his cohorts varying from hot-pink pants to retro mechanic’s shirts. Mid-song through “Longview” (Dookie ’94), and after a long drown out chant inducer, Armstrong climaxed the song and acted out its message center stage with simulated masturbation. “Do the wave!” he then commanded, and the 10,000-plus arena caught off-guard with the request hastily produced a complete wave that traversed the stands in a fashion adequate enough for Michigan Stadium. The best surprises of the show came however when Green Day picked three amazingly competent boys from the moshing floor to pluck and pound on their instruments as Armstrong sang a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” The stunt worked magnificently and the three boys were awarded with hugs and the right to keep the guitars, bass and drumsticks they used. The overly zealous drummer also took the liberty of stage diving back into the crowded floor.
Other unexpected moments occurred during “King For A Day” when it eventually transformed into a showstopper tribute of “Shout!” from the Isley Brothers, and accompanied by dressed up mariachi trombone players, a giant chicken, and his sidekick bee. Armstrong also donned his royal crown and flapped around stage in a velvet cape, reaffirming his status.
Green Day’s show was brought to an end by the popular hit “Minority” (Warning ’01), and the pop-gem “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” (Nimrod ’97) when all the pyrotechnics and lights were dimmed, and Armstrong quietly brought on a vigil of hand-held lighter flames, as the crowd filled the somber melodies of this grad-night song with salty-eyed chorus, a powerful flashback that brought the musician’s lyrics down to an individualized level. Green Day has mastered this talent to connect intimately with its fans, flung to life from the mud of Woodstock ’94 and immortalized in their music. In a humble act of gratitude, Bille Joe Armstrong silently bowed before gliding off stage.
It was an error to have let Blink 182 play after Green Day, for what Green Day had in energy, spirit and musical brilliance, Blink came off as simply chaotic, tiring and convoluted noise. Blink kicked off their set with popular hits “Anthem Part Two” and “The Rock Show,” with an excessive display of synchronized pyrotechnics and lack-luster stage presence from the two frontmen Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge. Blink’s trademark gross-out comedy on stage was surprisingly toned down throughout the performance – perhaps ashamed to seem juvenile following Green Day.
As openers for the pop-punk royalty, emo-punk boys Saves the Day raced through 11 songs in 35 minutes, compared with the 75 minutes both Green Day and Blink enjoyed. STD’s darling singer Chris Conley busted out his now familiar sexy shoulder bobs and waist swaying, which excited some of the young ladies in view, but nevertheless the royalty that followed them later in the night stole everyone’s undivided attention.