Rabble-rouser extraordinaire Billie Joe Armstrong, eyes rimmed with heavy black, silent film star liner, encourages anything but silence. He with bandmates – Green Day – played over two hours of raucous rock 'n' roll at a nearly sold-out Saturday night show at Darien Lake amphitheater.
Green Day's pyrotechnics (explosions of white-hot sparks as well as shooting orange flames that warmed faces even in the 200 section) punctuated the set: even the drum riser of Tré Cool was made of spot lights. Lights would also appear in a darkened amphitheater for closing song "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" in a beautiful moment of audience out-singing the band.
One song in – "Know Your Enemy" – and a fan had already been invited to join the band onstage, a hallmark of the band. She would, after tentatively singing along, take an impressive stage dive into welcoming arms. Much later an 11-year old boy would hit the stage to join in on vocals for "Welcome to Paradise" before taking his own dive.
"What a beautiful (expletive) night for some rock 'n' roll," Armstrong said. "I want to see everybody jumping up and down and going crazy." A banner unfurled, showing the cover art for the band's latest release, "Revolution Radio," and the roars were deafening at the sight of that, nearly obliterating the opening chords of "Bang Bang."
Known for lyrics that are both soul-baring and diaristic, Green Day is also politically outspoken. "No racism! No sexism! No homophobia!" Armstrong yelled and asked the house and stage lights to be dimmed, using a lone spotlight to shine across the audience. This was the visually stunning intro for "Holiday" from American Idiot, their 2005 release skewing the presidency of that time.
Pausing mid-"Letterbomb" and calling for more non-silence, Armstrong also had some strong suggestions. "You can't look at life through a cellphone camera, you gotta look me in the eyes," and "This ain't no political party, man, this is a celebration!"
Zoey Kratt, age 26, talked about her decade-long love of the band moments before Green Day hit the stage. Full disclosure: This reviewer has known Zoey since she was a kid and was not surprised to see her coming up the aisle. One thing no one can help but to know about her is her very vocal love of the band. To date she's seen the band half a dozen times, she says.
"When 'American Idiot' came out it taught me that I don't need to stay in the lines," she said. "It brought out my inner wild child. The lesson I learned from Billie Joe is that I can rebel and be different."
Opening for Green Day was charismatic and lanky Catfish and the Bottlemen, a quartet. The band, playing a concise set of five songs, proved their worthiness (and gratitude) for opening for rock 'n' roll royalty. Lead singer Ryan Evan McCann raised his guitar skyward several times in what seemed a salute to their situation.