Green Day - ‘Bullet In A Bible’ (Warners)
01 Dec 2005
needlessly bizarre sloganeering title from the 'day, but a stellar, value-for-wedge cd-dvd set; release - '05.
Live albums are a peculiar paradigm, akin to the photographs of yourself taken mid-rollercoaster that under-enthusiastic kiosk attendants seem themselves disinterested in selling you as a souvenir. Quite why anyone who wasn't present at the time would enter into a monetary exchange for something they were quite so unattached to has always been confusing. For purposes of reminiscing, their raison d'etre is clear. But it's only when something quite monumental happens that you can be justified in involving yourself in the fantasy presented by the likes of 'Bullet in a Bible', and the self-delusion that you actually were there.
And for many, Green Day's shows at the Milton Keynes Bowl this year were worthy of such an accolade. Mammoth shindigs spurred on by the rampaging success of the fine 'American Idiot' LP, they stamped Green Day's authority back on a genre suffering at the hands of Blinks, Charlottes and Sums. Far from those atrocities, this plush CD and DVD package (fair play to them for combining the two, thereby not forcing fans to fork out for both) proves conclusively what a higher standard of pop-punk we're dealing with here. Note - this is not a standard high enough to warrant placing it in some other, more readily credible genre. Essentially it's still big dumb catchy chords, anti-corporate sloganeering and more than a couple of giggled 'F**k you's!', despite its aptitude and nine-minute, five movement near delusions of grandeur. All that said, however, this really is as good as it gets.
And it genuinely is very good. The CD does precisely what it promises to on the case, that being to just relay the gig's audio content to you in professionally tampered with glory, so much so that it probably sounds clearer than it did on the day. It works to an extent where you could visualise the Milton Keynes mayhem (funny sentence) even if the accompanying DVD weren't present. Seeing as though it is, you get the added bonus of some interviews, photo galleries and a lovely sunset accompanying the entire show before your eyes. Simplicity always connects with a big audience on a more fundamental level, one more likely to produce an especially vocal crowd reaction. And it would be fair to question the pulse of someone who wasn't impressed by how rapturously the crowd received the opening, frenzy-inducing 'American Idiot', whether witnessed on the CD or that other disc (the one with the moving pictures, funny camera angles and unnecessary, intermittent absences of colour). What's most impressive is how the boys keep the temperature so persistently at boiling point - this being something which comes across surprisingly to a more powerful degree on the CD, where the gig is allowed to proceed without the unnecessary addition of between song interviews possessive of too much introspection and back-slapping.
Straightforwardness may be their main weapon, but their arsenal recently acquired the new addition of complexity in the form of punk-rock operas like 'Jesus of Suburbia', daringly placed second up in the night's set. A closer look reveals its composition to be one of in fact five smaller pop-punk gems, each one itself an example of that aforementioned simplicity that serves them so well, just injected with a maturity that makes them able to merely, well, play them in a row without stopping. The cleverest thing about it is how they've made us think they're all geniuses for managing it. Perhaps there's some genius in doing just that, who knows.
New material probably does perfect their art. A firework-adorned, politician-baiting 'Holiday' is no exception, although somewhat off-putting are Billie Joe Armstrong's Bono-aping, kiss-blowing, arms-outstretching postures made into the crowd during 'Are We The Waiting'. But equally valid for a surprising number of the crowd is the journey to this point, via the still fresh-sounding 'Longview' which gets the honour of being the song that greets the dawning of the night (something which will enhance almost any tune this side of 'Here Comes The Sun'), pantomime punk of 'King for a Day' and often overlooked classic 'Brain Stew' especially. Old chestnut 'Basket Case', understandably but disappointingly however, has a noticeable air of going through the motions when you're able to look into Armstrong's eyes mid-song. Not that anyone there would have noticed.
That constant call and response lines and sections left silent for the crowd to take the lead all gets a little predictable would not matter at all if one were actually present at the show. The difficulty in assessing 'Bullet in a Bible' is whether we're meant pretend that was the case, or focus on the finer and rougher points of the document of it that we're presented with. As gripes go, it's pretty minor, as are any others there might be. Listening to Billy Joe sing 'I wore cologne, I wore cologne' or something along those lines on the sub-standard 'When September Ends' cousin that is 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' proves the only moment lacking the pure energy the rest of the set comprises, and closing proceedings on the slower paced double whammy of that and 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' doesn't really do justice to what a rollercoaster ride the preceding fifty minutes of rock and roll were.
'The greatest show on Earth', they proclaim. For those present, possibly. But enough of what would have been special about the day comes across on 'Bullet in a Bible' for the rest of us to conclude that it was at least certainly the greatest show in Milton Keynes.