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Green Day marries old and new at Mandalay Bay

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Green Day.
Photo: Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau

Green Day may be 22 years old but that doesn’t mean the band has grown up.

And just because they have eight studio albums, three Grammy Awards and a handful of number one hits doesn’t mean they follow the rules, either.

“Las Vegas! Get off your fucking asses!” Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong instructed just moments after he stepped onto the stage on Friday. “Stand up! Stand up!”

“This is not a fucking slot machine, this is a fucking Green Day show!” he yelled.

The crowd at Mandalay Bay was more than happy to oblige, and was on their feet from the 9 p.m. intro until the last encore song of the night nearly two and a half hours later.

During the time in between, the audience was treated to the best of both worlds of Green Day: the old and the new.

Part throwback to their early days, part continuation of the group’s current incarnation, the show had something for fans of either era.

It has been 15 years since the group’s mainstream break-out album, Dookie, hit record stores (remember how people still went to stores to buy records – OK, CDs – 15 years ago?) and 17 years since they first gained early attention with Kerplunk.

Green Day at Mandalay Bay

This means what was a young fan base of 15 to 25-year-old music fans in the ’90s has grown up considerably since then – or aged, at least – and is now in the 30 to 45-year-old range. This, of course, helps explain the noted abundance of 5- to 10-year-old kids in the audience on Friday whose parents seemed slightly more interested in the music than they did.

Still, there were legions of young fans whose chaperones were not wearing North American tour T-shirts from the ‘90s. In fact, many younger fans were just that, and had no chaperone at all.

As strange as it may seem, Green Day has bridged the generational gap.

But just because Armstrong and his bandmates, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool, now have families of their own it doesn’t mean they’re about to become role models any time soon.

There were just two rules posted outside the entrance to the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Friday and Armstrong flaunted both of them.

Moshing and crowd surfing weren’t allowed, the sign said – yet the frontman repeatedly encouraged the crowd to stand up and jump along with the music. Later, a full-blown mosh pit broke out, reaching its peak during, “American Idiot.”

Armstrong also had three of the underage fans whom he pulled onstage make their exit in running, jumping and ultimately crowd-surfing motion. While yes, technically that constituted stage diving, which was not specifically prohibited by the sign, stage diving and crowd surfing go hand in hand: You can’t have the former without the latter.

Armstrong had the first fan he pulled onstage, a teenage boy, do a running jump out into the waiting crowd when it was time for him to leave the stage. While this may have been prime fodder for a liability claim and therefore was incredibly irresponsible of the singer, he showed a slight air of responsibility when he suggested the soon-to-be-surfer empty his pockets and hand any valuables to a friend before he attempted to ride the tide.

Armstrong’s second victim came in the form of a 9-year-old boy named Tristan.

When he pulled the youngster onto the stage, one of the first things he did was pull the earplugs from the child’s ears.

Green Day faithful of all ages had to wait until the encore to hear the closest thing the band has to a hymn, “Jesus of Suburbia.” However, they did hear the band’s more recent religious subtext release, “East Jesus Nowhere,” three songs into the 20-plus-song set.

There was also no shortage of classic rock ‘n’ roll show staples throughout the performance: plenty of pyrotechnics, scissor-kicks and windmill arm circles, along with a few riffs of "Iron Man" and the familiar scent of weed wafting through the air.

Yet, there was also an array of things that an early Green Day wouldn’t have likely ever imagined to incorporate into their live show, including an oversized disco ball, multiple saxophone solos and a decidedly un-hardcore cover of The Isley Brothers’ classic “Shout.”

Still, there were a few unplanned and very Green Day moments on Friday. As the big screen’s crowd camera panned the mass of bodies, it passed a grown woman who was clinging to the front barrier of the standing-room-only floor as she was holding something orange in her hand. A second pass revealed the orange object in question to be an Ernie doll.

The puppet references a larger version of the Sesame Street character that is identifiable in the photo that appears on the back of Dookie.

The release the group is currently most exited about, however, is 21st Century Breakdown, which they released in May, and the performance included plenty of new material, including the title track from their new album and both singles, “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns.”

They had something old and something new and, thanks to a handful of covers, something borrowed, too. While there was nothing blue about it, the show successfully married early and modern Green Day without sacrificing or compromising the band’s fun and at times irresponsible sensibilities.

Some might argue that the boys have mellowed over time, but old Green Day and new Green Day seem to have a lot of fun together onstage. They say it’s the couple (or in this case, the band) that plays together that stays together.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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