Review: Green Day at Mohegan Sun Arena

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Everything you need to know about Billie Joe Armstrong's confidence was NOT hanging behind the Mohegan Sun Arena stage when Green Day played to a full house Saturday.

No video screens. None.

In this era of post-space-age production, computer generated imaging and celestial lighting, with Green Day performing nightly in the biggest arenas in the country, Armstrong knows he's sufficiently charismatic to convey the physical and facial nuances of his volatile tunes with no help from the special effects wizards.

Part jack-in-the-box and part marathon runner, with the grace and timing of a circus acrobat and the exaggerated and grandiose gestures of a mime, Armstrong thusly delivers himself to his adoring fans along with a delectable portion of seasoned ham.

What it all means is that Armstrong is one of the greatest frontmen in rock. It doesn't hurt that he's got a full-on catalog of rocket fueled and hook-clustered punk tunes. In blueprint form, there's not much variety: machine gun-rhythms and power chords; punchy, harmonized choruses; and Armstrong delivering those bully's snarl vocals that convey pain and anger as often as they obfuscate an underlying vulnerability.

Admittedly, over time, Armstrong's lyrical vision has evolved from oft-hilarious snot-pop - punchlined study hall ruminations - to the societal and political observations of "American Idiot," "21st Century Breakdown" and last year's ambitious trilogy of "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tré!"

What good is all this analysis? Not a lot, actually. Who cares?

Because, if you're in the Green Day moment, as it went down in the Sun Arena Saturday and goes down everywhere the band plays, it's not remotely about analysis. It's about screaming your head off for two-plus hours because Armstrong's anthems - as spewed forth with the help of longtime bandmates Mike Dirnt (bass), Tré Cool (drums) and Jason White (guitar/vocals) and two anonymous, all-around support dudes - have uncannily, for going on three generations, captured the pain and joy and anxiety of Growing Up In These American Times.

The set-list, then, was a generous, cross-cut representation of hits and album favorites, beautifully and energetically performed. There were the riff teases from other bands: AC/DC, the Stones, Black Sabbath, "Shout," and so on.

And Armstrong attacked the stage using every Frontman Trick known to rock: 16 "Connecticut" references, call-and-response, sing-alongs, and dragging fans onstage. He soaked the near-stage crowd with a firehose and fired toilet paper streamers and T-shirts with that cannon that killed Ned Flanders' wife.

Now sober and presumably free of the demons that inspired his work, Armstrong can approach the enduring majesty of rock from a new and energized perspective. No "hoping" about it; he's having the time of his life.

r.koster@theday.com

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