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AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s too bad Green Day cancelled and did not reschedule its Omaha concert. The trio was in fine form Friday night, opening its tour at South By Southwest, playing the relatively intimate Austin City Limits Live venue that holds about 3,000 people.

Roaring through 25 songs in two hours, the trio mixed in a good number of songs from its 2012 album trilogy with old favorites, did some serous goofing around and brought the audience into the act in what Billie Joe Armstrong called a “celebration.” 

There was no mention of Armstrong’s recent stint in rehab that forced Green Day to postpone it tour. But when a microphone malfunctioned and created a hiccup, Armstrong quipped “I wasn’t even on drugs.”

High energy and relentlessly upbeat, the trio and a pair of backing musicians joked around with snippets of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and later donned some goofy hats and outfits -- drummer Tre Cool was wearing a bra -- brought out a sax player and did a soul medley of “Shout” into “Stand By Me” into The Beatles “Hey Jude,” which became a singalong.

That was far from the only crowd involvement. Armstrong brought up  a couple kids to and during “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” pulled the sign language interpreter up onto the stage.

“Will you sing with me?” Armstrong asked her.

“No. I will sign with you” she replied in American Sign Language and she did just that interpreting the song and dancing along.

“Had to make sure everybody heard that,” Armstrong said.

Everybody within blocks probably heard the show, which was ear-splitingly  loud. It was also great fun and a welcome return.

My other highlight of the evening was Natalie Maines, who performed with her band and guest Ben Harper at the Central Presbyterian Church, the SXSW with the best sound, period. 

Dressed like the star she is in a short black jacket, black top, gold necklace, leather skirt and pants and stiletto boots, Maines didn’t do any Dixie Chick songs. Her set was made up entirely of music that will be on her forthcoming album.

She was mesmerizing, delivering stunning vocals with the moves of an arena rocker. It makes little sense to talk a lot about songs that no one has head. Suffice it to say that I’m really looking forward to hearing them again when her record comes out in May.

That said, she ended her set with “Take It On Faith,” bringing out her father, Lloyd Maines to play steel guitar and turning the song into a 10-minute duel between Lloyd and Harper on lap steel. It was transcendent.


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