OMAHA -- “This is a rock ‘n’ roll show, not an (expletive) tea party,” Billie Joe Armstrong exclaimed after Green Day tore through “Know Your Enemy” Saturday, sending the CenturyLink Center crowd into a frenzy.
More than two hours and 23 songs later, Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool and three backing musicians had delivered just what Armstrong promised -- and something that no other band today could do -- a full-on punk rock show that made an arena feel like a club.
Kicking off with seven frenetic songs, with Armstrong in constant motion, constantly urging “Let’s go crazy,” Green Day showed why it’s a great live band and the most successful punk outfit ever.
In true punk fashion, Green Day broke down the barrier between audience and performer, four times turning a person pulled from the crowd into a singer or guitar player, letting the fan have his or her moment in the spotlight, then sending them tearing down the runway for a dive into the crowd.
That happened on “Longview,” the band’s first single from 1994, one of the oldies in a career spanning set that included a couple songs from “Revolution Radio,” Green Day’s latest and pretty much all the hits, with the crowd singing along -- with Armstrong’s encouragement and, at times, direction.
Like many of the punk outfits of its era, Green Day is, for lack of a better term, a political band. While it’s not partisan per se, Armstrong’s call for “No Racism, No Sexism, No Homophobia….This is America” and night long pleas for unity, truly connected, giving additional intensity and uplight to the music.
“Tonight is about freedom,” Armstrong said. “Tonight is about equality, no matter what color your skin is, no matter what religion you are...I’m sick of the bigotry. Look at your cellphone and what you’re going to see is a mad, mad world. But not tonight. We’re leaving it at the door.
“ Tonight we’re going to show America what it’s like to be Americans together Tonight, we’re going to have a good time together. We’re going to sing together. We’re going to dance together. We’re going to cry together. Because we’re in this together.””
Later, while the band was rolling around on the floor during a medley that included “Shout” (which couldn’t be better chosen given the call-and-response that pervaded the night), “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Hey Jude,” Armstrong directly addressed the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va.
Quipping about the need for TLC, “tender, lovin, free health care,” Armstrong said, “you’ve got to stand up for the ones who need stood up for, not some white supremacist bullxxxx.”
There was no commentary before or after “American Idiot,” which opened the first encore. Nor was any needed. The song resonates, perhaps even more strongly, in the age of Trump than it did when it came out 13 years ago.
The unity that Armstrong spoke of was palpable throughout the concert, whether the crowd was singing along, pumping its fists to crunching anthems or simply enjoying Armstrong's antics that make him one of the most engaging frontmen in music.
At the end of the main set, Armstrong thanked the crowd for the night and “for the last 30 years of being in Green Day.”
He wasn’t the only thankful one in the arena. The thousands who heard those thanks echoed them back -- for both the music Green Day has brought and for the show that was pure, engaging fun.