No one gets the "sell-out" tag tossed at them faster and harder than a successful punk band. And no punk band is more successful than Green Day.
Or, if you're one of the boobirds, "Greed Day."
Two decades after their sneery, snotty start, the Berkeley-reared hellions no longer thwart popular culture — now they dictate it, peddling a chummy rebellion to a mass populace that includes you, your little bro and your dad.
Is there still a chance you'll get bloody at a Green Day show? Maybe if you slip in the john.
But for all the crowd participation, hometown shout-outs, fiery 'splosions and special effects at their live shows — cliche stuff that drives the old punk guard batty — Green Day, when all is said and done, remains a vital, robustly profane crew, our best challenger for challenging times.
For more than two hours and 25 songs at the St. Pete Times Forum on Monday, a jacked-up, dying-to-please Green Day sent 8,572 fans both young and gray into hand-waving, sing-along hysterics. If that attendance seems low, well, it is, especially in a joint that seats more than twice that. You can blame the economy. You can even blame so-so sales of the band's latest album, the rock operatic 21st Century Breakdown.
But don't blame Green Day. Singer Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and superhuman drummer Tre Cool are intent on being the biggest band in the world, and they work that way. There's never been three dudes who made such a swarming, assaulting racket as these scruffs, and now they're even louder, adding extra guitars, a keyboard, even a saxophone during The Static Age (which, to be honest, blended in like a nun at a nudie joint).
Led by the wee, winning Armstrong, who sprinted across the stage — and even vaulted up into the stands, still picking his axe — the band mixed message, mayhem and every trick taught in Crowd Management 101. They blurted "Florida" about 50 times too many, shot squirt guns into the crowd, even busted out Bono's old spotlight-into-the-audience bit. Heck, they even did Shout!
For the new East Jesus Nowhere, which bashes religious hypocrisy and a "Godless nation," Armstrong invited a grade-school kid onto the stage and infused him with the spirit, knocking the tyke on his tuchus. (The kid also got to lead the crowd in the wave, so don't worry about him being scarred.)
For all the shenanigans, it was easy to overlook the great booming musicianship of the band. Intricate chunks of 21st Century Breakdown were played with awesome vigor (including the Queenly Before the Lobotomy and 21 Guns). They also dipped into 2004's Grammy-gobbling American Idiot for incendiary antiwar anthem Holiday and got around to earlier hits like Longview, which eventually featured a gaggle of lucky fans rocking the big hit on stage.
It would have been nice to have more straight-up rock and rage. But while Green Day is older and safer, the group is also a lot wiser — and maybe making the masses happy is the best way to also make them think for themselves.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.