He fashioned himself into a human “X,” arms outstretched at 45-degree angles, legs splayed so far apart that his feet practically occupied different time zones.
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, a panting, kinetic, exclamation point of a dude, is the embodiment of the arch gesture.
He sings from atop the monitors, he pumps his fist to the beat, he leads the crowd in one soccer-style chant after the next, he fills his band’s songs with so much extracurricular activity, that they get fattened like overfed livestock — and on Friday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, all of the above took place during the first full-fledged song of the night.
As this show demonstrated, Green Day have established themselves as punk rock’s pre-eminent populists, for better and sometimes worse.
On one hand, they take the true promise of punk rock very literally. Punk has never been about a sound as much as fostering a sense of egalitarianism between the artist and the audience. There’s meant to be as little separation between the two as possible, and what first made the music so resonant to so many was the notion that anyone could do it, anyone could participate, even if you couldn’t, you know, actually play an instrument.
At Mandalay Bay, Green Day seriously belabored this point. They brought half-a-dozen kids on stage to sing, scream or play guitar before eventually leaping into the crowd’s outstretched arms on the arena floor.
By the third tune of the evening, a jarring “Know Your Enemy,” Armstrong was running up into the rafters, throwing his guitar over a fan’s shoulders so that he could strum along.
But what began as an all-inclusive way to diminish the boundaries between the band and the crowd started to feel tiresome midway through the group’s marathon set, which spanned over two-and-half hours.
Green Day embraces every last arena rock conceit — lots of pyro and stuff exploding, confetti showers, endless exhortations for audience participation, a pointless, yawn-inducing medley of classic rock staples like “Shout,” “Satisfaction” and “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” — and yet, wasn’t punk rock intended to shear all this fat from the rock and roll experience?
Armstrong spent so much time pandering to the crowd, be it firing water guns, toilet paper and T-shirts at them, that it led to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”-long versions of hits like “Hitchin’ A Ride.”
Dude. Play. The. Song. Already.
But then again, Green Day has grown fond of all things overstuffed in recent years. Their last two records, 2004’s “American Idiot” and this year’s “21st Century Breakdown” are both high-minded concept albums with ambitions as outsized as Armstrong’s stage presence.
It was these discs that the band culled much of their set from, especially the latter, navigating their way through a series of brusque, biting tunes about disillusionment (“21st Century Breakdown”), ennui (“The Static Age”) and the allure of dissent (“East Jesus Nowhere”).
When the band got down to business, they were spot-on in their hook-heavy battery of lean, mean, pop punk heart attacks.
And so ultimately, Green Day can be forgiven for their frequent forays into this time-killing exercise or that. Really, it’s not hard to discern what the band was trying to achieve with it all, attempting to forge some kind of bond with the crowd before them and lend a more personal feel to the proceedings.
“Put your cell phones away,” Armstrong commanded at one point. “There’s no other place to be right now. Let’s be in the moment.”
And then he dug his fingernails into said moment, refusing to let go, only loosening his grip to take a gander at the 10,000 or so true believers happily resting in his palms on this night.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.