Billie Joe's back.
Green Day vocalist-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, whose substance abuse problems landed him in rehab and momentarily derailed his East Bay punk-pop band's career, was in herculean form during the band's hotly anticipated showcase Friday night at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival.
In a performance that many saw as a key test for the band as it prepares for a world tour that kicks off later this month, Armstrong's vocals were spot on. His guitar licks were sensational. And, most significant, he was back to being the charismatic, playful and exuberant frontman whom millions of fans fell in love with in the first place.
It couldn't have come at a better time. Although there was no official proclamation, it certainly felt like it was Green Day Day in Austin, Texas, on Friday.
Besides the concert -- Green Day's first major performance since Armstrong's rehab stint -- the day also featured screenings of both new Green Day documentaries as part of the SXSW film festival.
The first was "Broadway Idiot," a highly polished documentary that recounts the path of the band's "American Idiot" musical from its conception to its debut at Berkeley Repertory Theatre to, eventually, a hit run on Broadway. The second was "Cuatro," which documents the recording of Green Day's three new albums -- "Uno," "Dos" and "Tre" -- which were released in a span of just over two months in the fall. Both films were extremely well-received by audiences.
But fans reserved even greater enthusiasm for the nightcap, roaring at the mere sight of Green Day taking the stage at the lovely Austin City Limits Live venue and only growing more rambunctious as the evening progressed.
And Armstrong had them all beat.
He was a whirlwind from start to finish. Yet, his energy was focused and everything he did benefitted the show. This was definitely not the Armstrong who shocked the crowd at the iHeartRadio festival in Las Vegas in September with an expletive-filled meltdown. This version resembled the Armstrong who helped push Green Day to new heights after the release of "American Idiot" in 2004.
The rest of the band was right there with him. Bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool combined to once again form one of the best rhythm sections that punk-pop has ever known. And the band's fourth member, guitarist Jason White, provided plenty of truly heroic leads.
Yes, Green Day has a fourth member. According to what was heard in "Cuatro!," as well as what was listed in the film's credits, the longtime sideman is now officially a member of the band. And yes, it will take some time (probably years) before referring to Green Day as anything other than a trio sounds right.
The set list was a delightful mix of longtime favorites and new tunes. It was a treat to hear the band run through such old hits as "Welcome to Paradise," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Know Your Enemy" and "Jesus of Suburbia." It was nearly as fun to hear the quartet perform selections from the three new albums.
And it was really a blast to watch Green Day get under the covers -- performing a number of snippets from such well-known hits as Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine," AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
In all, the concert served as evidence that Green Day is ready, willing and able to leave its troubles behind and just focus on rocking crowds. Local fans should definitely be excited about seeing the band perform at its big homecoming show on April 16 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.
Next Bay Area show: 6:30 p.m. April 16 at UC Berkeley Greek Theatre, with Best Coast (sold out).
Online: To see a slideshow of Friday's concert, read reviews of the two new Green Day movies and more of Jim Harrington's South by Southwest coverage, go to www.mercurynews.com/music.