Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day works the hometown crowd at the UC Theatre in Berkeley on the band's "Revolution Radio" tour. (Christopher Victorio/Special to SF Examiner)

Green Day saves best for hometown Berkeley crowd

East Bay rock stars Green Day somehow have managed to keep punk urgent and relevant, yet are classy and classic at the same time.

They looked and sounded fantastic playing a lot of their new album “Revolution Radio” at the sold-out “intimate” (1,400-person capacity) UC Theatre on Thursday.

“We always save the best for our f—– hometown,” the in-command Billie Joe Armstrong said toward the beginning of the two-hour, 30-song show, screaming local references — “Berkeley,” “Bay Area,” “East Bay” — to the adoring all-age crowd.

Armstrong, blue-haired drummer Tré Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt (along with guitarist Jason White and saxophonist Jason Freese) proceeded to “blow the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ roof” off the joint. (The sound crew did a great job; you actually could hear the lyrics, unlike at most loud rock shows.)

Now in their 40s, the Hall of Famers blasted through their catalog, the older songs from “Kerplunk,” “Dookie” and “Insomniac” (“Stuart and the Ave.,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Private Ale,” “When I Come Around”) blending seamlessly with 21st century material from “21st Century Breakdown” (“Know Your Enemy” opened the concert), “American Idiot” and 2016’s meaty release (the title track, “Bang, Bang,” “Youngblood,” a live debut of “Forever Now”).

There were a few deep cuts for diehard fans, like “Waiting” from “Warning,” which followed a great version of “Hitchin’ a Ride,” in which Armstrong went on a funny diatribe about the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, saying they’ll be like “Mad Max, looking for gasoline and killing each other.”

Armstrong, whose voice didn’t let up, masterfully worked the audience, particularly during an inspirational spoken word segment of “Holiday,” in which he challenged folks to do something about Donald Trump and promised, “The lies are going to end tonight, because we have each other.”

When, among stage-diving teens, Armstrong (wearing a magenta shirt with ruffles) exhorted, “We need to love and respect each other,” it actually resonated, all the way to the “adults” sitting in back. (Only at a Green Day show!)

Kids joined Billie Joe onstage; one youngster knocked out a spectacular guest vocal on “Longview,” while the audience handled quite a few vocals, too.

On the partly acoustic “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Armstrong certainly wasn’t alone as he sang “I Walk Alone.”

And in the wake of his famous 2012 meltdown and subsequent recovery from substance abuse, Armstrong’s rendition of the new single “Still Breathing” was charged and emotional (after a less satisfying covers medley including a funny saxophone tidbit from “Careless Whisper.”)

The anthemic first encore — “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia” — led the way to the solo Billie Joe, playing “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” a fitting closing to their personal hometown bash.

Happily, these guys don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon.

As this show and “Revolution Radio” prove, they’re only getting better, kicking out perfect punk nuggets with real melodies and lyrics that mean something.

See you around town, guys!
American IdiotBillie Joe ArmstrongconcertGreen DayJason FreeseJason WhiteMike DirntPop MusicRevolution RadioUC Theatre

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