Billie Joe Armstrong acted like a man with a new lease on life.
The Green Day leader was joyful, energetic and full of passion during his East Bay punk-pop band's sold-out concert at the Greek Theatre. He was happy to be home and performing for the first time in years in Berkeley. Heck, he was just happy period.
"We're all alive," he exclaimed to the 8,500 fans in attendance. "We're all still (expletive) alive!"
What we were witnessing in that moment was a man who had learned, perhaps the hard way, the importance of taking time to smell the roses.
"With so much scary (expletive) going on right now, you've got to live every moment -- every (expletive) moment."
It's safe to assume that he was referencing Monday's tragedy in Boston, but the vocalist-guitarist could've also been alluding to his own his recent experiences. His battle with substance abuse problems led him to rehab and threatened to crush Green Day's career.
It's now an older, wiser Billie Joe Armstrong who fans are seeing take the stage. Yet, one that is no less fun than the previous model.
Kicking off the show with this tour's namesake song, "99 Revolutions," Armstrong acted like a highly caffeinated kid in a candy shop for 2 ½ hours. He buzzed about the stage like a mad man, rarely staying still for more than a few seconds, while captivating the crowd with a ridiculous assortment of juvenile ways. He soaked fans with a water hose, shot both toilet paper and T-shirts into the crowd, and even cuddled onstage with a giant pink bunny.
Ah, yes, the giant pink bunny. It was that costumed character that actually opened the band's set, and provided the one really questionable moment of the night. The bunny staggered about the stage with a drink in each hand, chugging them to the sounds of the Ramones and other lively acts.
Of course, Green Day has never been shy about poking fun at itself. Yet, that the guzzling bunny bit felt inappropriate for a band with a lead singer who recently got out of rehab.
The toilet paper shtick, however, was great.
The quartet -- yes, Green Day is now a quartet, having recently added longtime sideman-guitarist Jason White as an official member -- is touring in support of three new albums. The group released "Uno!," "Dos!" and "Tre!" during a span of just over two months in the fall.
Now, I'm not sure if any major act has ever released more mediocre material in a shorter time period. (OK, Prince probably still has Green Day beat -- since 1996's "Emancipation" was a three-disc set.) Yet, it didn't matter one iota in concert.
In Berkeley, the band played a goodly amount of new songs and was able to make each one matter. If you have listened to "Uno!," "Dos!" and "Tre!," you know that's really saying something.
How'd Green Day do it? The band treated every song like it was the one that mattered most in the set list. Armstrong and company, of course, were wrong in that regard — the ones that mattered most, like on tours' past, were the offerings from 1994's "Dookie" and 2004's "American Idiot."
Green Day certainly didn't disappoint once it got around to playing the longtime fan favorites. The group, which also includes the mighty rhythm section of bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool, delivered thrilling versions of the "Dookie" cuts "Welcome to Paradise," "Longview," "She" and "Basket Case." In the encore, Green Day burned through a great rendition of the title track to "American Idiot," as well as that album's ever-impressive suite "Jesus of Suburbia."
Toward the end of the show, Armstrong, exhausted from delivering such a herculean performance, simply laid down on the stage floor and soaked up the moment.
"Oh, my God, it's so nice to be home," he said.
And it's so nice to have you back, Billie Joe.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.