Linkin Park at the O2 Arena
January 29, 2008
If young rock acts are struggling to sell albums, someone forgot to tell Linkin Park. Seven years since their debut, Hybrid Theory, won a Grammy, the Californian sextet have shifted more than 50 million copies of just three studio albums, including Minutes to Midnight last year, which topped the charts in 16 countries, including Britain.
Variously labelled rock-rap, nu-metal and rock-pop, Linkin Park proved to be a bit of all three at a riotous London show that barely paused for breath and often felt like a competition between band and fans as to which could make more noise. From the moment Linkin Park appeared, silhouetted behind a white curtain, the O2 floor was a mass of bobbing heads. When the curtain dropped, a mix of fists and camera phones shot into the air, where they stayed for the next 90 minutes.
The crop-haired, black-clad, tattooed singer Chester Bennington immediately revealed how he stays so skinny - he bounced around like a ping-pong ball, pausing only to leap onto a box at the front of the stage before he was off again. Bennington's vocal default setting is scream, but with as much pop as hard rock in the guitar riffs, subtle electronics and catchy choruses, the sound never came close to genuine aggression. Indeed, when they performed Minutes to Midnight's schmaltzy slowie Valentine's Day, the spectre of Nickelback loomed large.
With Rick Rubin at its helm, the latest album edged away from the rock-rap hybrid with which Linkin Park first made their mark - a wise move, since the older songs sounded distinctly dated.
The crowd might have lapped up Faint, clapped through Somewhere I Belong and chanted every line of Points of Authority - all driven by Mike Shinoda's raps and backed by hip-hop beats - but the hymnal Hands Held High, where Shinoda switched to singing, had a fresher, punchier impact, while the night's highlight was a blend of two new tracks - Wake and Given Up - that boasted an apocalyptic intro, juggernaut guitars and a dash of fun, Sex Pistols punk.
If Linkin Park truly want to toughen up, however, Bennington will have to ditch his daft chat. “Leave it to London to build the biggest, baddest venue on the face of the Earth,” he yelled, surveying a sterile arena that looks like a big high school sports hall. And, when he jumped into the crowd, he took two bodyguards with him and stayed behind the barriers. Big softie.