Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong gave his final performance as St. Jimmy in the Broadway production of American Idiot yesterday – the closing night of the show – and then gave more. After the final curtain, the cast’s nightly encore sing-along of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and a round of congratulatory speeches by director Michael Mayer and producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, Armstrong and his Green Day bandmates – bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool, with guitarist Jason White and keyboard player Jason Freese – took the stage for a full hour of additional music and mayhem. The band played a 10-song set with the cast dancing behind them and drinking beer. At one point, two cast members raced past Armstrong and stage-dived into the crowd.
Green Day’s set included two songs from their 1994 breakout album, Dookie – “Burnout” and “Welcome to Paradise” – as well as “Murder City” from 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. There were two covers: “Walking Out on Love,” a power-pop obscurity by the late-Seventies band the Nerves, and a high-speed tease of the theme song from the TV-cartoon series Spider-Man, minus any mention of the U2-related musical under reconstruction two blocks away.
Green Day also reprised “Holiday” and “Letterbomb” from the American Idiot score; Armstrong noted that the latter was a special request from actor John Gallagher, who originated the role of Johnny, the Jesus of Suburbia, in the show and was in the audience for the closing. (Melissa Etheridge, who played St. Jimmy for a couple of weeks this year while Armstrong was on a break, was also in the house.) For the final number, Armstrong led the band into a full-length blast of the mini-opera “Jesus of Suburbia.”
For a guy who had just done two shows that day (there was an afternoon matinee as well), Armstrong had no shortage of momentum during Green Day’s set, leading sing-alongs and doing Pete Townshend-style leaps. “Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a fucking party – this is a fucking celebration!” he yelled before jumping into “Welcome to Paradise.” He took a potshot at the president who partly inspired the 2004 American Idiot album, George W. Bush, and another at the guy who replaced him, noting that we are now in three wars (if you include Libya). “But I’m not going to go down in this shit storm,” Armstrong crowed. “Can we fucking unite?” He pointed out later, gesturing at the stage set with its images of old punk-gig flyers on the walls, that “I never thought I’d see my bedroom on a Broadway stage.”
During American Idiot‘s last Broadway performance – the 445th – Van Hughes, as Johnny, asked in his final monologue, “Is this the end or just the beginning?” Members of the audience shouted “The beginning!” Pittelman and Hulce confirmed that in their speeches. In December, American Idiot will start a national tour, followed by productions in Europe, Japan and Australia. A movie version of the show is also in development.
Praise and congratulations made the rounds on stage between the final bows and Green Day’s set. “Billie Joe, you’re a fucking poet,” director Mayer told the singer-lyricist, who looked bashfully grateful. Co-producer Hulce ended his remarks – and American Idiot‘s two-and-a-half-year journey from development to Broadway – by giving Green Day the Great White Way’s highest compliment: “Billie, Mike and Tré, welcome to the theater.”