August 5, 2007|
Linkin Park's vitality was in critical doubt a few months ago. Though the band has publicly hated on the nü-metal moniker, it's a fact that it's the genre's most successful act, bar none.
But the faddish mishmash of rap and heavy rock is now largely dead, and Linkin Park took more than four years to craft its way out of it with a new release. Like it or loathe it, that hotly awaited leapfrog of a new CD, Minutes to Midnight, has moved millions; it's the year's top rock album in sales so far. The question then became what Linkin Park would become as a live act with some seemingly disparate and semi-obsolete parts – especially rap maestro Mike Shinoda and sample-scratch MC Joseph Hahn – still in the mix. With a few exceptions, both are secondary players on Minutes, so what role remained for each as Linkin Park's sound matured into more of a hyper-hyped contemporary rock amalgam?
The answer arrived at Smirnoff Music Centre on Saturday as LP's massive Projekt Revolution tour came through town. And the answer is positive. The SoCal sextet unleashed a polished, streamlined 90-minute set in front of about 16,000 enthusiastic concertgoers, many of whom obviously attended solely to see the headlining act. It was a suprisingly docile and subdued gaggle through the 11-band tour's ninth act, Taking Back Sunday, only truly awakening for the primary opener My Chemical Romance's masterfully buzzy and fiery 55-minute turn.
LP's set list spread over its three-CD catalog (no, I'm not counting that weird exercise with Jay-Z as a studio release) like cream cheese on a freshly boiled bagel: evenly, opaquely and with few lumps. Selections strived to highlight Mr. Shinoda's rapping skills; in fact, the band only performed three-and-a-half tunes from Minutes (the intro track, "Wake," isn't a full one, y'all) in the set's first two thirds; one of those, the anti-war ode "Hands Held High," is Mr. Shinoda's only real rhyming showcase on the new disc.
But he manned a guitar and electric piano well in support on other numbers, though he appeared tense and pensive at times over the ivories, especially on the piano-paced duet with co-vocalist Chester Bennington, "Pushing Me Away." Mr. Hahn's role remains vital live, too; he presided over a bank of eight M-Audio sampler pads to trigger electronic sound bytes instead of relying on an offstage sound man to do the same (More bands should do this! Don't be ashamed!).
Mr. Bennington's ungodly screeching ability was in full bloom – he held a particularly painful cry for four full bars at the end of "Given Up" – and though his voice went flat here and there, that can be excused in exchange for his physical exertion (he lost his in-ear monitor at least twice during boisterous headbanging sessions). But a highly attractive, industrially inspired set design – a dense, bleacher-like riser with LED-encrusted vertical and horizontal members, backed by a full-sized LED curtain and countless strobes – set off everyone in the band well, even when they weren't the most memorable to watch.
That every performance on this tour is being offered as a live CD (well, to the first 1,000 purchasers at $11 a pop) meant that Linkin Park wasn't going to take many chances live; it dutifully gave the faithful their share, recent converts their cut and potential new fans something substantial to taste, too. Besides, LP took its true gamble in mid-May with the release of Minutes.