“I feel like we’ve been through puberty together,” said Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong toward the close of the band’s joyous, marathon show at Cleveland’s House of Blues last night. It was their first U.S. show in two years and much of the adoring throng was middle-aged guys and girls reveling in the soundtrack of their teenage years, many of whom came to the all-ages show with their kids. In town for Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony — they’re being inducted into the Ohio institution alongside Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, among others — the band tore through a three-hour show which included a surprise warm-up set with the band’s original drummer, John Kiffmeyer, who played on the band’s early EPs in 1989-’90 before giving way to Green Day’s current drummer, Tré Cool.
The band has been on a lengthy, self-imposed hiatus, devoting time to their families as well as tackling medical issues (that includes second guitarist Jason White – now a full-fledged member of the band – who beat back throat cancer last year). The band seemed genuinely humbled by the RRHOF induction, with Armstrong repeatedly thanking the audience, a far cry from their snotty, East Bay punk beginnings.
The House of Blues was a stinky hot mess when the trio hit the stage just after 10 p.m., launching into “99 Revolutions” from 2012’s Tre, before dialing it back to the one-two punch of “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from 2004’s epic American Idiot. Armstrong worked the stage like a punk rock carnival barker, engaging the crowd in a call and response in nearly every song, climaxing with a medley of that included snippets of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”
And Kiffmeyer wasn’t the only surprise guest of the night: Rancid lead singer Tim Armstrong joined the band for a rip through Rancid’s “Radio” as well as “Knowledge,” a cut from Tim Armstrong’s first band, Operation Ivy. Other highlights included the epic “Jesus of Suburbia” and the gem “Private Ale,” a cut last played in 1992. The pre-Green Day set with Kiffmeyer as Sweet Children featured a handful of tracks that hadn’t seen the light of day live since the early Nineties, including “Sweet Children,” I Was There” and “Dry Ice.”
A raucous aftershow party went until 3 a.m., with many family members and close friends joining the band in an emotional celebration of their 25-year career. “It’s still hard to process,” said Armstrong before scooping a handful of a giant white cake. “But all I know is that I don’t want to be anywhere else but here.”