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Green Day Play Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Rock Tweens and 30-Somethings Alike

Green Day
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

The defining moment of Green Day‘s show last night (April 7) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. — the one most likely to silence the naysayers, provided there were any in attendance — came seven songs into the two-and-a-half-hour set.

Following 45 minutes of material drawn solely from the last five years — one tune from 2009′s ’21st Century Breakdown’ and five from the recent ‘¡Uno!’ ‘¡Dos!’ ‘¡Tre!’ trilogy — the trio reached way back into the vaults for ‘Holiday,’ from the 2004′s ‘American Idiot,’ and prefaced the soapbox-and-megaphone breakdown bit by starting a wave.

Consider: Singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong used a tired sports cliche to segue into a satirical anti-imperialistic rant that begins with the words ‘Sieg Hiel’ and includes a homosexual epithet likely to be bleeped on radio. Oh, and he did so months after undergoing treatment for substance abuse, nearly a decade after releasing the conceptual comeback album (later a Broadway musical) from which the single comes and less than a year shy of the 20th anniversary of ‘Dookie,’ the 1994 album that transformed the Berkley pop-punk trio from scruffy club rats to conquering alt-rock kings, snotty crowd-pleasers whose Big Gulp punk would help alleviate the sour aftertaste left by Nirvana‘s demise.

Say what you will of Green Day circa now: They’ve got tremendous staying power and almost unprecedented cross-generational appeal, and that ‘Holiday’ gimmick goes a long way toward explaining why. Yes, Armstrong, shirtsleeve-averse bassist Mike Dirnt and forever-mugging drummer Tre Cool are everything the haters hate — goofy and pompous and willing to pander to 13-year-old mallrats and steak-head frat boys — but they’re also endlessly energetic live performers who, despite superstar fame and the ambitious (some might say pretentious) output it’s produced, have never really stopped kicking first-rate, surprisingly meaningful power-pop jams. ¡Uno!’ ‘¡Dos!’ ‘¡Tre!’ aren’t great, but listen again: They’re pretty good — better, probably, than they ought to be.

From ‘Holiday,’ it wasn’t long until Brooklyn got the “vintage” stuff, as Armstrong called it, and while the oldsters in the house (and there were plenty of them) no doubt got a kick out of 1990′s ‘Going to Pasalacqua,’ not to mention all the ‘Dookie’-era hits, the formidable tween and teen contingents hung with them on every word. And why wouldn’t they? As long as selfish parents screw up, neurotic teens crack up and harry-palmed latchkey kids discover levels of boredom not even masturbation can cure, ‘Welcome to Paradise,’ ‘Basket Case’ and ‘Longview’ will resonate.

It’s as if Green Day has locked in guaranteed rock ‘n’ roll social security. Regardless of how long they’re able to keep up the hyperactive stadium-punk shtick — the new six-man lineup, complete with hats and ties, suggests they’re angling to be the next E Street Band — they’ve got the future covered. Their music is engineered for timelessness, and they no longer even need to play their beloved, if universally misunderstood, ballad ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),’ a sometime second encore they avoided at the Barclays.

Maybe Billie Joe and the boys don’t care if, on any given night, you’ve had the time of your life. They’ll get you next time — and the time after that.

Green Day’s Barclays Center Setlist
’99 Revolutions’
‘Know Your Enemy’
‘Stay the Night’
‘Stop When the Red Lights Flash’
‘Letterbomb’
‘Oh Love’
‘Holiday’
‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’
‘Burnout’
‘Welcome to Paradise’
‘Geek Stink Breath’
‘Knowledge (Operation Ivy cover)’
‘When I Come Around’
‘Going to Pasalacqua’
‘Brain Stew’ (w/ ‘Highway to Hell’ intro)
‘St. Jimmy’
‘Longview’
‘Basket Case’
‘She’
‘King for a Day’ / ‘Shout’ / ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ / ‘Hey Jude’
‘X-Kid’
‘Minority’
Encore:
‘American Idiot’
‘Jesus of Suburbia’
‘Brutal Love’

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