Released November 15, 2005
64 min, 57 sec
Bullet in a Bible, despite its short length, is an album that perfectly captures the atmosphere of a Green Day concert. Though the audio is heavily edited, cutting out significant portions of crowd participation and extended instrumental sections, the album retains the incredibly rowdy, enthusiastic crowd, making sure that there is always the low hum of the crowd throughout the song, though this low hum frequently explodes into over 65,000 people chanting in unison at the band, often being led by Billie Joe Armstrong in these chants. As much as the band is in top form, the crowd makes sure to meet them at every opportunity.
And make no mistake – this is most definitely Green Day at the height of their popularity, and thus, the height of their live existence. For the first time, Green Day brought an expanded band along for the ride with them, introducing multi-instrumentalists Jason Freese and Ronnie Blake and third guitarist Mike Pelino alongside guitarist Jason White (held over from the Warning: tour; he would finally become an official member of the band for the ¡Uno!/¡Dos!/¡Tre! trilogy in 2012), allowing for the group to expand their live musical palate. These extra musicians were put to good use on one of the album’s many highlights in “King for a Day,” which eventually transitions into a rousing rendition of “Shout” before returning to the original song for its conclusion.
That brings me to the setlist – fourteen tracks is too short for a live album, but the album picks its fourteen well. Following a heavy reliance on American Idiot, being the most recent studio album at the time, Green Day dives into their greatest hits for the next five tracks, pulling out two tracks from Dookie, one from Insomniac, and another two from nimrod. before returning to American Idiot‘s major hit “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” a brief detour to Warning: in “Minority,” an outing of megahit “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from American Idiot, and traditional closing track “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” in an electric rendition of the originally-acoustic song. Six other tracks were played during the band’s two nights at Milton Keynes, presumably cut for length and to avoid having to secure rights for the two covers included in the set.
The album is sourced from two shows at Milton Keynes National Bowl, which featured a total attendance of 130,000 people, by far the largest two crowds the band had ever played for, which played into the crowd’s enormous reactions on the album. Armstrong definitely panders to the British crowd in order to get stronger reactions, frequently denouncing American policies and culture during the initial run of American Idiot tracks, especially during the album’s title track. The band is absolutely on fire throughout the entire performance – Armstrong’s vocals are sharp, the band is tightly woven instrumentally, and the core trio of Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool play off each other incredibly well, owing to their, at that point, sixteen-year history as a band.
There are a lot of great moments – the crowd singing lines from “Basket Case” completely out of sync, Armstrong acting completely in-character for “St. Jimmy,” Armstrong groping himself repeatedly during “Hitchin’ a Ride,” the entirety of “King for a Day,” the raw emotion pouring out of the entire band for “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” particularly from Armstrong, who can be seen crying during the guitar solo, and the intimacy of “Good Riddance,” just Armstrong performing the song, alone, to 65,000 of his closest friends at that moment, the entire crowd shouting every word right back to him. Bullet in a Bible really drives home the point that Green Day is meant to exist as a live band, where they can take their music and fire it up with everything they’ve got.
There’s a lot to say, and a lot that has been said, about the musical merit of Green Day, particularly with a potential Hall of Fame induction on the horizon. However, one thing that can never be faulted is their ability as a live band, and Bullet in a Bible is, by far, the best document of that.