These are the kind of moments rock fans (and concert reviewers) live for: Midway through [artist id="988"]Green Day’s[/artist] raucous two-hour set at New York’s Webster Hall on Tuesday, just after frontman Billie Joe Armstrong had ordered the crowd to surge forward, one wayward fan found himself standing onstage — the end result of some rather crafty crowd surfing — face-to-face with Armstrong.
For a second, they just sort of stared at each other, as the chorus of “Longview,” the song that put Green Day on the map, inched closer and closer. Then, perhaps inspired by the moment, the music or something else entirely, the guy reached out, grabbed Armstrong, and planted a long, wet kiss right on his mouth, while security looked on with Defcon-5 stares. Befuddled and bemused, Armstrong stumbled back, and the dude launched into the “Bite my lip and close my eyes” chorus, then dove back into the crowd, not to be seen again.
Now that’s what you call fan outreach. Green Day had spent the past few days in and around New York City doing this sort of thing — meeting fans at in-store album signings and throwing a pair of (sorta) secret shows, Monday at the Bowery Ballroom and then Tuesday at Webster Hall — all in promotion of their just-released album, 21st Century Breakdown, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart this week. And, to their credit, none of it has felt promotional … it’s been decidedly DIY, brash and snotty, like the Green Day of old.
Oh, and really, really loud too. At Webster, they literally shook the floor of the place (the 1,500 very lucky fans who bounded up and down with every guitar chord helped out, too). They spent the first hour of their set ripping through much of Breakdown, opening with “Song of the Century,” barreling into the title track, then tearing through the first single, “Know Your Enemy.”
Green Day kept the energy high throughout, with Armstrong sprinting across the stage and even taking a dip or two into the crowd. And though Breakdown had been out less than a week, the fans sang along loudly, nailing every word of new songs like “Before the Lobotomy,” “Last of the American Girls” and “Murder City.” It’s also apparent that Breakdown standouts like “21 Guns” and “East Jesus Nowhere” are going to be massive arena-rock hits.
After an hour of breaking it down 21st Century-style, the band went back to American Idiot, zipping through the title track, getting epic on the nine-minute “Jesus of Suburbia” and stomping out “St. Jimmy.” Then they took it back even further — all the way to 1991 — and performed “At the Library,” a welcome choice for the fans who have been loyal from the start.
They did stuff from Dookie — the aforementioned “Longview,” of course, plus “Basket Case” and “She” — took a side trip through Nimrod (“King for a Day”), then closed with “Minority,” from 2000′s Warning, pausing mid-song to thank fans for coming, before giving it one last burst of energy and finishing off the set.
Only then did the room stop shaking, the cups cease flying and the voices conclude singing. With a set that proved to have one unforgettable moment after the next, one thing is for certain: Webster Hall hasn’t been rocked like that in a long time. And Green Day have never been better.