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Concert review: Green Day at the Verizon Center in Washington

Ring Posts blogger Kevin Eck was at Green Day's show at the Verizon Center. Take it away, Kevin:

Green Day violated one of the basic rules of the entertainment business with their show at Verizon Center Wednesday night: They didn't leave the audience wanting more.

Then again, Green Day are rebels at heart, so conventional rules be damned.

The Grammy Award-winning trio held nothing back. They put on an amazing performance, not only with their musicianship, but also with their nonstop energy and ability to keep the audience on its feet, pumping its fists and singing along for over two and a half hours. Green Day played 28 songs.

With tickets priced at just $49.50, a Green Day concert has to be one of the best bargains on the live music scene as far as big-name bands.

Green Day, which first made an impact in the mid-90s as a punk band with catchy riffs and a sense of humor that celebrated the slacker mentality, has pulled off a difficult balancing act. Over the years, they’ve evolved into a more socially conscious band with a political statement, but they haven’t forgotten that, above all, rock and roll shows are supposed to be fun.

And even though they are now a huge arena act – Verizon Center was nearly filled to capacity – Green Day has not put a barrier, either physical or unspoken, between themselves and the audience. Despite playing on a big stage with a high-tech video screen and pyrotechnics that would make Kiss proud, the concert Wednesday night still had the charm of a club show, complete with fans stage diving and crowd surfing.

At one point, front man Billie Joe Armstrong left the stage and made his way about 15 rows into my section on the lower concourse, playing his guitar the entire time. Not only did he come to the audience, but he also brought some audience members to him.

In what has become a staple of Green Day shows, Armstrong plucked four fans out of the crowd at various times to join him on stage. Two young men took a turn singing lead on “Longview,” and another played guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia.” They all did a heck of a job, by the way.

Also, a girl named Ellie who looked to be about 7 or 8, was “saved” by Armstrong during his parody of a Southern-style televangelist in the middle of “East Jesus Nowhere.” With his hand on her forehead, he looked into her eyes and sang: “A fire burns today of blasphemy and genocide / The sirens of decay will infiltrate Ellie.” As he said her name, she suddenly dropped to the stage the way someone overcome by the Holy Spirit at a revival meeting would.

Half of the set list consisted of songs from Green Day’s past two albums, American Idiot (2004) and 21st Century Breakdown (2009). The other half included old-school Green Day songs such as the aforementioned “Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Basket Case,” “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “Brain Stew” and “Minority.” They also covered the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.”

By the time Green Day left the stage and the lights came on, the audience was spent (at least I was), even if Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool seemed willing and able to play all night.

In retrospect, I want to retract my original statement about Green Day not leaving the audience wanting more. Just like good sex, no matter how much satisfaction you get from a Green Day concert on a given night, you’d definitely come back the next night and do it all over again if you had the opportunity.

(Photos by Getty Images)

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