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Punk icons make for good sports

WORCESTER -- Apart from being the most popular punk-pop band on the planet, Green Day is the perfect party starter. Singer Billie Armstrong seized on the Red Sox' World Series triumph by asking "Who's your Papi?" And when Armstrong and mates encored with Queen's "We Are the Champions," they seemed to be at a Fenway sports bar rather than the Worcester Centrum Centre.

Some fans at the near-capacity Centrum proudly wore their Sox garb -- and some looked as if they hadn't slept since the Sox clinched the Series. But Green Day kept the festive mood alive with a buzz saw of antiauthority punk anthems and an enhanced stage production that looked to have been borrowed from Metallica, notably the pyrotechnics jutting up from the stage. Several confetti machines also barraged the crowd.

Green Day, however, didn't just play party boys. It also unveiled much of its new, well-received punk opera, "American Idiot," a thoughtful story about a dysfunctional youth raised on "soda pop and Ritalin" that wonders where he fits into this "information age of hysteria." Green Day opened with the blistering title track, following with other new tunes "Jesus of Suburbia" and the accelerating "Holiday."

The songs represent a new maturity for Green Day, though the band then quickly ripped into its bratty decade-old tune "Welcome to Paradise" and laughed as the fans sang its climactic line about masturbation. Other early numbers such as "Basket Case" and "She" were further reminders of the band's past role as fixated adolescents.

Armstrong and bandmates Mike Dirnt (bass) and Tre Cool (drums) have especially grown in their appreciation of rock history. The new album has echoes of rock operas by the Who and David Bowie, and the stage show had a variety of nods to Roger Daltrey (in the way Armstrong twirled the microphone at one point), Chuck Berry (the frontman adopted his duckwalk), and James Brown (a roadie came out and put a cape on a bowed Armstrong while he belted out the Isley Brothers's "Shout").

And the band's own roots showed when Armstrong dedicated new ballad "Wake Me Up When September Ends" to Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone. In all, there were no weak spots.

I missed opener Sugarcult, but New Found Glory didn't build much trust with its music, offsetting a few great songs with teenybop punk monotony that was no match for Green Day.

Green Day
With New Found Glory and Sugarcult
At: the Worcester Centrum Centre, Thursday night

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