For just under two-and-a-half hours and 28 songs, California bubblegum punk rockers Green Day had most every member of the crowd out of their seat and waving their hands as the band stormed through a career-spanning set Wednesday night at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena.
Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, a bundle of energy and charisma dressed in black with white polka dots on his shirt, worked the crowd like he was conducting a raging symphony, all the while nailing every note of pop punk classics like “Holiday,” “When I Come Around” and “Basket Case,” and a healthy selection from the band’s latest album, Revolution Radio.
The group — Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool — was aided by Jason White (guitar, vocals) of North Little Rock, who has been with Green Day since 1999, and Little Rock’s Jeff Matika (guitar, vocals), a member since 2009, and each was greeted huge ovations when Armstrong introduced them to the audience of 7,027.
Three of those audience members actually got onstage.
Armstrong wasted no time in picking a woman out of the crowd to sing along with “Know Your Enemy,” the first song of the night, and then instructed her to take a stage dive back into the throng. Later, on “Longview,” a young man was pulled up to help sing and, in the best audience participation moment of the evening, a woman named Candace played Armstrong’s guitar on a cover of “Knowledge,” originally done by Operation Ivy and appearing on Green Day’s 1990 debut album, 39/Smooth. At the end of the song, he gave her the instrument.
A medley of covers toward the end of the set, with saxophone by Jason Freese, included “Shout” and snippets of “Careless Whisper,” “Always Look on the Bright Side of life,” “Hey Jude” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Armstrong, the author of the politically-charged album/rock opera American Idiot, mostly refrained from current events, calling instead for unity through music and love (though he did have an unprintable comment about President Donald Trump during the song “American Idiot”).
And, after a blistering, intense “Jesus of Suburbia,” Armstrong emerged alone with an acoustic guitar for the second encore, strumming “Ordinary World” from Revolution Radio and the beloved “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” that brought the concert to a satisfying end.
Opening act Against Me! blitzed through their 11-song, half-hour set of raging pop punk. Frontwoman Laura Jane Grace belted out anthems like “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Unconditional Love” and “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.”
She also told the story of how, at 14, she saw her first concert and it made her want to play punk rock.
The band she saw? Green Day.