AUSTIN - Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day have some recent experience with Broadway but they were upstaged Friday night at South By Southwest.
About two-thirds of the way through the two-hour concert at Austin City Limits Live's Moody Theater, the band played its breakthrough hit Longview from mega-platinum album Dookie. Understudy Ty Ehlinger, 15, of Richmond, Texas, who attended a Green Day concert three years ago, had prepared for his cue.
Before the third verse, Armstrong queried the crowd for a singer to finish the song. After a brief search, he gestured to Ehlinger, near the front of the stage wearing a red Green Day T-shirt. He proceeded to sing the verse, all the while stalking the stage.
As the band took over the chorus, he hopped up on the drum riser and jumped as the song ended. He stayed on stage and the crowd audibly cheered for him. Then the chant arose to "Jump, jump!" So Ehlinger got a running start and leapt into the dense din at the front of the stage.
Afterwards, he posed for pictures with fans. ""I was ready," he said between photo ops. "I said, 'Hell, I'm getting up there.' "
The band appears primed to restart its tour, which had been canceled after Armstrong went into rehab last September. His only nod to that during Green Day's first SXSW appearance came after a stage technician replaced Armstrong's microphone in its stand at front-center stage. "I wasn't even on drugs," Armstrong quipped.
Right after that, during Letterbomb, Armstrong declared "I love you, Austin. ... This is a celebration."
Armstrong sounded sharp and was a bundle of frenetic energy traversing the stage and then pogoing during Stop When the Red Lights Flash from ¡Dos!, part of the band's recent trilogy. The band attended Friday SXSW screenings of ¡Cuatro!, about the making of the three albums, and Broadway Idiot, about the adaptation of 2004's American Idiot to the stage.
His bandmates were dialed in, too. Guitarist Mike Dirnt performed an acrobatic leap during Welcome to Paradise and drummer Tre Cool provided sharp, solid backing and donned drag - as did the rest of the band - including a pink bra during King for a Day.
That was just one incident that suggested Armstrong, who's already reportedly working on a rocking remake of Much Ado About Nothing, could be testing out new Broadway musical themes. Earlier, a medley of classic rock faves included Sweet Child O' Mine and Highway to Hell. Another medley mashed up Stand By Me, Hey Jude and Shout. Animal House the musical, anyone?
Fan Nancy Allen, 52, who flew from Minneapolis after winning tickets through the band's official fan club Idiot Nation, got enough old tunes such as Basketcase and newer ones such as 99 Revolutions.
The band had "great energy," she said afterward. "I think he was happy. I've seen him play when he seemed not as happy. I saw him on Broadway, as well. He was happy tonight. He was really, really relaxed.
"We were all incredibly concerned with nothing but love for Billie to be healthy and well," she said. "We're just glad he's back."