Green Day / Best Coast Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, April 11

Green Day / Best Coast Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, April 11
Photo: Fil ZuZarte
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You can roughly split Green Day fans into two camps: those who came of age under the reign of Dookie and those who pledge allegiance to American Idiot. It's an envious, if frustrating, problem for a band trying to please a hockey arena full of fans both young and accompanying their young. Best Coast had the tough job of opening for such a vaunted band; where Green Day have an embarrassment of arena-sized hits to pull from, Bethany Cosentino and company have always aimed for something a little more intimate. She, musical partner Bob Bruno and the rest of the group played with vigour, adding some needed edge to their tunes. They leaned heavy on the scrappier Crazy For You and Cosentino didn't let the massive space intimidate her. But the band's music, plagued by booming bottom end, couldn't compete on such a massive stage.

The crowd's anticipation for the headliners was whetted by "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" blasting through the PA and a drunken guy in a pink bunny suit floundering about on the stage. Finally the members of Green Day, whose size ballooned to six thanks to touring musicians, hit the stage launching into "99 Revolutions" from last year's Trés. For a band with a pretty big generational divide, the Bay area punks seemed content to spend the set's first 45 minutes digging through last fall's trio of meandering albums and the bloated 21st Century Breakdown, tossing in a few American Idiot tunes ("Letter Bomb," "Holiday," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams") to keep people's attention.

These songs certainly gain some extra oomph live, but whether or not you're a fan of this period, front-man Billie Joe Armstrong's insistence on pausing songs two-thirds of the way through to play hype man was aggravating. He's come a long way as a front-man and is a magnetic figure on stage. But the constant need to play rock star — effective once or twice, grating by the fourth time — really dampened the pace of the show. After "Stray Heart," Armstrong acknowledged the age gap in the audience and the band turned on a dime and went deep on '90s material. Way deep. "Burnout" kicked off a run of songs that included "Coming Clean," "One of Our Lies" and "Christie Road" from Kerplunk and "Going to Pasalacqua" from 39/Smooth, making it pretty much impossible for anyone to feel as if "their" version of Green Day wasn't represented.

It was during this run of songs — some of which were requests from the floor — that Armstrong, bass player Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool regained some of the piss-taking edge that catapulted them into the hearts and minds of teens in the first place. That edge continued on through the rest of the hits-laden set, even when the group transitioned in half-played covers like AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," which led into "Brainstew" or the extended medley of songs ("Teenage Kicks," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Hey Jude") shoehorned into the breakdown of "King for a Day." Their main set lasted two hours with an encore of "American Idiot," "Jesus of Suburbia" and curious closer "Brutal Love," completing a set that went beyond what anyone could expect from a band two-and-a-half decades into their career. On my way to the show a friend jokingly referred to Green Day as our generation's Rolling Stones, a bunch of piss-taking punks who've fallen into every rock star trapping possible (see the onstage breakdown that led to this tour's postponement). But onstage Green Day don't comport themselves like jaded, self-important rock stars, which is a lot more than can be said about a lot of lesser bands.