Gren Day brings arena bombast to club tour opener

Brad Keefe photo

Green Day has been active for three decades, sold more than 75 million albums worldwide and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the band still seems somehow underrated.

And I'll admit I've been a part of that. Green Day's mid-'90s, energetic punk revivalism always felt fun, but never essential. The musicians ushered in an entire wave of pop-punk, but their impact never seemed on par with the rapid landslide Nirvana kicked loose.

And it's a band I somehow never managed to see live, probably because of how quickly it ascended to playing arenas.

After three previous tour stops were postponed due to illness, Green Day's show at an (obviously) sold-out Newport Music Hall on Monday served as the opening night on a mini club tour leading up to the release of its new album, Revolution Radio. It also served as a career-spanning jaunt through the band's catalog that showcased everything that should place Green Day among the generation's greats.

On the first briskly cool evening in Columbus, the line to get into the venue snaked for at least four blocks when doors opened at 6 p.m. It would continue to for hours, the result of an elaborate entry system - essentially a forced will-call that required ID and the credit card used in the ticket purchase - meant to discourage scalping. These hoops were largely effective, although dozens did get turned away after attempting to buy tickets on the secondary market.

Brad Keefe photo

Still, by the time the 8 p.m. opening set by Sacramento two-piece pop-punk sister act Dog Party kicked off, the venue wasn't yet full. There was no doubt about the capacity when Green Day took the stage a little after 9 p.m. The floor was packed to the point it swirled like a cellular mass under a microscope. Virtually every other space was the definition of "standing room only."

So after the pre-set playlist ended on a "Bohemian Rhapsody" sing-along, followed by someone (drummer Tré Cool perhaps?) in a pink bunny costume pumping up the crowd to strains of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop," the band took the stage to a thundering roar and kicked off with a ripping new number from the upcoming album, "Bang Bang."

Green Day has long combined the sneering three-chord energy of foundational punk with Saturday-morning-cartoon accessibility. In a word, its live show was … fun. The musicians burst out of the starting gate with a joy and energy that lasted through a 25-song set that pushed two hours.

Billie Joe Armstrong's showmanship is a sight to behold - part ornery punk, part Freddie Mercury. Seeing him work a crowd of about 1,700 into a froth, it was apparent the band had brought everything it learned in those arena years back to a club setting more in line with its roots. Under a simple backstop - no giant Green Day banner and only using the Newport's house lighting rig - it was the best of both worlds.

During "Know Your Enemy," Armstrong pulled a young fan onstage and coached him in what was presumably the boy's first stage dive (nailed it). There was plenty of call-and-repeat to a crowd that hung on every second. Sing-alongs were aplenty, especially during a blissfully goofy medley of "Shout" (the Isley Brothers, not Tears for Fears), the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and the Beatles' "Hey Jude."

Brad Keefe photo

The setlist dove deep into the band's biggest albums, including 1994's Dookie and 2004's American Idiot, but wove in tracks from throughout its catalog. And while this night was an obviously hot ticket, they all seemed to end up in the hands of megafans.

For example, I saw what looked to be a 10-year-old kid standing to the side and singing along to every word of songs that were older than he was. I bumped into the boy and his dad leaving the venue and found out that the dad had spent "way too much money" on a pair of tickets from a resale site, stopped in around lunch to pull his son out of school and then drove five-plus hours from Knoxville, Tennessee, to see this show. "When are you going to see Green Day in a venue that size again?" said the (awesome) dad. "Never."

As Armstrong closed out the night alone with an acoustic "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," it was simultaneously the most hokey/obvious closer and the most perfect. The anthem of high school graduations and "Seinfeld" montages was one last delirious sing-along. Yes, Mr. Armstrong, we did, in fact, have the time of our lives.