It took seconds from the time Green Day blasted into their first song Know Your Enemy for frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to have the crowd completely in his pocket.
Amid the explosions, the flames, the dazzling, relentless lights and the band’s murderously tight sound, Armstrong had a message for his people in the freshly renamed former Vector Arena.
“No racism,” he barked. “No sexism, No homophobia. And no f***ing Donald Trump!”
It’s almost unfathomable that Green Day have been doing this for more than 30 years. Armstrong, in particular, is still very much a kid in a candy store, and on this excellent night he was as hot as the wall of flamethrowers backstage – sprinting from one side of the set to the other, conducting the crowd as they sang his lyrics and stiff-arming his low-slung guitar as he struck heroic rock poses through a vast catalogue of memorably catchy, powerful punk-pop anthems.
For two hours 10 minutes Armstrong reined supreme. The diminutive rocker’s energy was an unstoppable force of nature, and his voice was in great nick. Without any hint of irony he celebrated his self-proclaimed weirdness in a room full of weirdos hanging on his every word. When he commanded the crowd to jump, no-one stopped to ask how high.
Behind him, his loyal brothers in punk Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool slammed down jagged, relentless rhythms, supplemented by three other musicians adding extra guitars, sax and keyboards. Their sound was as good as a rock band can get in a noise chamber as massive as this one.
The hits kept coming – Boulevarde of Broken Dreams, Longview, When I Come Around, Jesus of Suburbia, Revolution Radio, Are We The Waiting and, of course, their most political anthem of the lot, American Idiot. Surprisingly, but perhaps pointedly, in these strange days of Dictator Trump, there was no Troubled Times, but there was no real need for it either. Armstrong made that point early and moved on at speed.
There was a lot of love in the house, and inevitably people were hauled out of the crowd for a few moments of hometown glory singing and stagediving, or, for one lucky young girl, playing guitar with Green Day and getting to keep the guitar.
They may be a politically charged psychedelic punk circus, but Green Day proved that when you’ve got great tunes, youthful energy and a genuine bond with your fans, age means nothing.
As Armstrong finished up with a poignant, acoustic Time Of Your Life, 14,000 fans would have gone home feeling like they’d just had it.
Spark Arena, Auckland
Saturday, May 13
Reviewed by Chris Chilton
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