HOLLYWOOD — Green Day fans who arrived early at Thursday's kickoff of the band's four-city American Idiot tour were treated to the sounds of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" soundtrack. It was just a CD playing over the PA at the Henry Fonda Theatre, but it was just the right warm-up for what was to come.
The show began with two hostesses in red-and-black burlesque attire singing a line from the album that sounds like something kids on a playground would recite ... in a horror movie: "Nobody likes you, everybody hates you."
As the women walked away, the curtain fell and Green Day began their sequential run through their new album, due Tuesday, starting with its title track, a new fan favorite judging by the volume of those singing along.
The band, also dressed in black and red, the colors of the American Idiot artwork, were immediately spastic, especially singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, who jumped around like the stage were a trampoline, his red tie flying from side to side.
"Welcome to Green Day presents American Idiot, our record release party ... slightly glorified," Armstrong announced after the opener. "Which brings us to our next character, he's a son of a bitch."
Joined by an additional guitarist, a pianist and a singer/percussionist, Green Day then launched into "Jesus of Suburbia," a five-part operetta that, in all of its progressive glory, is the centerpiece of the new album.
Although it was Armstrong leading the way from one drastically different section to another, bassist Mike Dirnt, standing spread-eagle with his bleached hair spiked high, spent some time on the mic, leading the choir (the other musicians) through some of the parts.
Drummer Tre Cool was the only musician without a mic, but he sang along to most of the album anyway. His facial expressions also complemented the music as it switched moods from song to song, and at times he was standing, dancing or posing.
"That's a long-ass song," Armstrong said after the nine-minute opus. "Short-attention-span theater. That song's about telling your home, your family, whatever, to f--- off. And here's something else that can f--- off. The next song's about the war going on in Iraq."
The infectious "Holiday" followed and was augmented by Armstrong's ability to get the audience singing along, even to a song few had heard.
"This song's about numbing yourself," Armstrong said later in the set, introducing the dark "Give Me Novacaine." The singer's between-song commentary took a bit away from the show being a rock opera, but since the album isn't out yet, fans benefited from hearing a bit about each tune. (And it gave the guitarists time to change instruments and, oh yeah, breathe.)
Later into the album, Armstrong jumped entirely out of the story told through American Idiot to chat with some screamers in the front row. "What? This is your first concert? You should have come last time we played here when we played all our other songs," Armstrong joked, obviously aware that playing a new album in its entirety is not exactly the most crowd-pleasing thing to do.
After pounding through the album's middle numbers, including the poppy "Extraordinary Girl," the band slowed down for the heartbreaking "Wake Me Up When September Ends."
"This one goes out to Johnny," Billie Joe said, dedicating a song he wrote about losing his father at a young age to the Ramones guitarist, who died Wednesday (see "Ramones Guitarist Johnny Ramone Dies At Age 55"). Most of the capacity crowd lifted lighters — or cell phones (how touching) — in the air.
The burlesque-looking girls, who had carried an "Act 2" sign across the stage earlier, now reappeared holding a sign that read "Finale."
With that, Green Day launched into "Homecoming," the album's other operetta. "It's not about some bitch in a crown, I can tell you that," Armstrong joked.
With the final note of the album still echoing, the band left the stage, only to return a few minutes later to the sound of Tre pounding the unforgettable beat to "Longview." With the crowd going nuts, Armstrong lifted his guitar and did pelvic thrusts to the beat, adding some strange facial expressions to go along with the playful routine.
Another oldie, "Brainstew," followed, during which Armstrong's mic was accidentally tipped toward the floor; he dropped to his knees and sang the tune from there.
Before breaking into "Minority" (complete with an Armstrong harmonica solo) the singer flung water on the sweaty crowd, jokingly making the sign of the cross as if he were baptizing them. At one point, he took a piece of black tape from his mic stand, put it on his lip like a moustache and threw out his Freddie Mercury impression, singing a line from "We Are the Champions."
The bit proved to be foreshadowing, because for the final song of the encore, the band played the Queen tune spot-on. This time, though, Armstrong sang it in his own voice.
But for a band who'd just performed its first live rock opera, perhaps "Bohemian Rhapsody" would have been more fitting.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.