Green Day at Berkeley, With Exclusive Slideshow by Natalie Nesser

04/26/2013 08:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2013

Green Day at The Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on April 16, 2013 by Natalie Nesser

"It's been a long time since I've been able to say this. Berkeley, California!" shouted Billie Joe Armstrong to his screaming hometown crowd at The Greek Theater on April 16th, blowing kisses to the audience as a green-haired Tre Cool ran up to the drums, bassist Mike Dirnt took command of the spot to his left, and a stoic Jason White stood to his right... and the energy only escalated from there.

Opening with the tour theme song "99 Revolutions" from Green Day's latest trilogy album iTRE!, all I could think was Holy Fuck! The light show. The heart-pumping energy. The band members' inability to age. It all came together in one perfect moment to remind us all, despite events of the last six months, a golden oldies seniors tour this was not. As a legacy band, Green Day pulled off a rare and amazing feat: they really can have it both ways, simply because they've earned it.

As if to reinforce this new lease on life from a band that has grappled with its recent share of struggles, Billie Joe Armstrong told the crowd, "We're all fucking still alive. Live every fucking moment!" Part motivational speaker to his own inner demons and part prayer revival to the punk rock gods, the band immediately went into "Know Your Enemy" from the album 21st Century Breakdown, as Armstrong's nephew Mateo, in honor of his seventeenth birthday, did a perfect stage dive and was carried by the fans through the pit, making it clear this tour is about respecting the best from the past as they embrace the uncertainty of the future, the prevailing theme of the trilogy itself.

Going from "Know Your Enemy" to "Stay The Night" from the recent trilogy album iUNO!, and from there, straight into "Stop When The Red Lights Flash," from the trilogy album iDOS!, with a seriously cool red light show that looked like it came right out of the pits of Hell, Green Day backtracked again into "Letterbomb" from the back catalogue album American Idiot, before jumping forward into the trilogy albums once again for the radio-friendly calm of "Oh Love" off of iUNO!

And so it went, this whiplash of adrenaline-pumping great songs, one after another, emphasizing the then and now. Though the show leaned heavily towards Green Day's greatest hits from the back catalogue, as far back as the early 90s, and though I would have preferred a full-out show of nothing but live songs from the trilogy albums, especially of "Dirty Rotten Bastards" from iTRE!, "Wow! That's Loud" from iDOS!, and "Fell For You" and "Troublemaker" from iUno!, with the back catalogue as an encore, nothing felt lost or needed or missing.

To illustrate this, one of the highlights of the show happened when Green Day played the 1994 hit song "Welcome To Paradise." With a blinding, feverish light show and heart-racing intensity, Dirnt's mad skills on the bass, Tre Cool's frenetic beat and White's guitar invasion, Armstrong belted out the song like time had actually stood still and almost two decades of new music had never passed. When the song ended, there was a moment of comedy when Billie Joe Armstrong told the sound booth to "turn that blinking light shit off. It's driving me crazy" when they realized the lights were stuck and maybe not supposed to compliment the song quite so much.

Like a maestro conducting his orchestra of willing fans, with one point of his finger and a raised arm, Armstrong demanded cheers from a section of the audience before moving on to the ones waiting in the wings. And again. And again. And again, before diving back into the song "Stay The Night," with the new addition of him singing the lyrics "I gotta know/If you're the one that got away" a cappella, before Cool kicked in the beat again and the music revved back up.

"Stray Heart" from iDOS! was a definite fan favorite, and "St. Jimmy" from American Idiot sent the pit into a frenzy of headbanging fun that set the stage for Mike Dirnt's bass-heavy "Longview" from Dookie and the tradition of pulling a fan from the audience to sing the final verse. "Hopefully, somebody weird" Armstrong told the audience as he searched the pit for that lucky fan to come up on stage. Little did he know the fan he chose would steal the show, if only for the few minutes it took to finish the song. Like a young Billy Idol, this hardcore punk rocker with the blonde spiked hair and a great voice climbed onto the stage like he owned it and had been singing "Longview" his entire life; and to Green Day's credit, they gave him more stage time than they normally would have, simply because they seemed so impressed. His photo is in the slideshow. If anyone knows who this guy is, let me know. I want to talk to him!

"King For A Day" from Nimrod had the usual shenanigans that had me laughing all the way through it, with a sax and vocal duet between Jason Freese and Billie Joe Armstrong; and "Jesus Of Suburbia" from American Idiot proved once again Tre Cool still owns the drums and will go down as one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock-n-roll. One surprise for me was "X-Kid" from iTRE!. Though it's a huge fan favorite, it wasn't even in the top ten as one of my favorites from the trilogy, but hearing it live was sheer perfection and made me re-think my list.

During a montage of covers, Green Day played "Shout!" by The Isley Brothers, where Tre Cool disappeared from the drums and the others laid on the floor of the stage during the quiet time, while Armstrong contemplated the universe next to the Drunk (on life and rootbeer) Bunny. Amid the gorgeous open-aired theater, beneath a clear sky, under the moon and stars, it was as if the universe itself was smiling down on Berkeley as Armstrong asked, "Boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls, aren't we all entitled to a family?" Continuing with the lazy drawl of someone completely relaxed and at peace with the world, he stated, "Civil rights baby. Civil rights."

The show ended with what's become the tradition on this tour "Brutal Love" from iTRE!, in my opinion the best song in the trilogy and one of Green Day's best songs to date, which makes me wonder why the entire tour isn't primarily focused on the trilogy. Though I'm sure they have reasons I'm not aware of, the question "What do they have to lose?" keeps running through my mind. I want to see Green Day say Fuck. This. and give "Brutal Love" its chance as a single release. And while they're at it, "Fell For You" and "Troublemaker" from iUNO!, and "Lazy Bones" and "Wow! That's Loud" from iDOS!, because the trilogy deserves its time to shine, and to be honest, would be a pretty epic show, if for no other reason than just out of respect for criminally under-appreciated rock-n-roll, and isn't that the reason Green Day created the trilogy music in the first place?