Once upon a time an unknown punk-pop band released their first major label debut. The album was Dookie, and the band was Green Day. Back then, Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar, vocals) Mike Dirnt (bass) and Tre Cool (drums) were bad-asses. They garnered a major following of spiky, green-haired kids who devoured their catchy, whiny single “Basket Case.” Those kids are still around, but with Green Day’s latest release, Bullet in a Bible, they’re no doubt wondering what happened to the brash, rowdy boys they once knew.
Bullet documents a 2005 Green Day concert stop at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England. Anyone unfamiliar with the locale will quickly learn of its location, as Armstrong feels the need to shout “England” countless times throughout the performance. Unnecessary reminders aside, it’s the music that really counts.
Green Day’s latest concert features mostly songs off 2004’s politically charged American Idiot album. The rolling drums and intense guitar riffs are enough to keep the crowd from losing interest during “Jesus of Suburbia,” the five-part song.
Crowd participation is not in short supply, as evidenced by the thunderous handclaps and feverish shouts on “Holiday.” “Are We The Waiting” is another prime example, showcasing Armstrong’s ability to encourage crowd sing alongs.
The highlights of the disc are the older hits, namely “Brain Stew,” “Basket Case” and “Minority.” These are the songs that fans who grew up on Green Day wanted to hear, the ones that made that $50 concert ticket all worth it. And it’s clearer than ever that devoted followers were out in full force the night of this concert. One listen to “Basket Case” validates this point; the audience energetically sings along to every word, with or without Armstrong’s help. That’s dedication, even more beautiful is Armstrong’s voice. It still has that pure, smooth, unique-as-ever sound popularized at Green Day’s inception.
As if not evident from the crowd response on the CD, the supplemental DVD makes clear that Green Day is still able to fill a venue to capacity. A sea of black and red, no doubt influenced by the signature red tie and black get-up sported by Armstrong, bathes the outdoor arena. During “Holiday,” the DVD gives life to the faceless cheers as the camera pans through the audience. Even more overwhelming is the chanting and fist-pumping throughout the concert; it’s like the audience is a cult and Armstrong is their leader. Which actually might not be far from the truth.
The DVD opens with a poignant moment with Armstrong as he talks about what music and Green Day means to him. He says that when he’s asked about people who only “like him because he’s in Green Day,” he responds with “well, I am Green Day. That is me.” But he’s not the same Green Day as he was in the ’90s. Sure, he can still jam like a pro, but he’s playing to a different crowd these days.
The Dookie-era kids have been replaced by a new generation of fans. But if Bullet is any indication, these fresh followers are just as taken with them.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars