Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong cracked his biggest smile of a joyous night at Webster Hall on Saturday when the raucous capacity crowd began screaming the words to “Still Breathing” back to him.
That’s no small feat considering the song only came out the day before on the band’s new “Revolution Radio” album, but this was a crowd of die-hard fans thrilled to see their stadium-filling heroes in a club. And the soon-to-be anthem is the most straightforward of the new Green Day songs in its discussion of the band’s recent struggles, including Armstrong’s stint in rehab after an onstage meltdown in 2012.
The song is a celebration — “Just shine a light into the wreckage… ‘Cause I’m still breathing,” Armstrong sings — and it was the centerpiece of a two-hour, 20-minute party that marked the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ 30th anniversary as a band.
Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool, with help from guitarist Jason White, offered plenty of surprises, including a string of pre-fame punk nuggets like “409 in Your Coffeemaker” and “Christie Road,” as well as a healthy chunk of their 1994 breakthrough “Dookie.”
The mix made the show feel comfortable and effortless, though Armstrong’s call for audience requests did require a bit of band strategizing. In a way, it reflected the way “Revolution Radio” has no overarching theme, unlike the band’s albums of the past 12 years, simply one great song after another.
But that doesn’t mean Green Day has lost the political edge it unveiled in the masterful rock opera (and Broadway musical) “American Idiot.” The new single “Bang Bang,” a hard-hitting attempt to explain how pop culture shapes mass shooters, and the title track of “Revolution Radio,” inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, both carried on the band’s tradition of speaking out.
“Say no to racism, no to sexism, no to homophobia!” screamed Armstrong at one point. And when the crowd broke into a spontaneous chant of “ Trump!” he just smiled.
SETLIST: Know Your Enemy / Bang Bang / Revolution Radio / Holiday / Letterbomb / Boulevard of Broken Dreams / Longview / Private Ale / Armatage Shanks / Stuart and the Ave. / 409 in Your Coffeemaker / Brat / One of My Lies / Christie Road / Burnout / Nice Guys Finish Last / Scattered / Hitchin’ a Ride / Waiting / Are We the Waiting / St. Jimmy / Basket Case / She / King for a Day >Careless Whisper >Shout >(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction >Hey Jude / Still Breathing / Minority // ENCORE: American Idiot / Jesus of Suburbia / Ordinary World / Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)