Projekt Revolution bands projected a desire to deliver an old-fashioned rock show.
Chester Bennington said it took him barely any time to compile a wish list of artists to join Projekt Revolution this year because he knew exactly whom he wanted. His instincts to target Julien-K, Placebo, HIM, Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance to warm up the main stage for headliner Linkin Park were spot on. There's a lot of angst and buzz-saw guitar noise spewing from the stage, but it's all entertaining for a change.
Bennington is the head yowler for Linkin Park and also the unofficial CEO of this fourth installment of Projekt Revolution. The 10-hour, 11-band fest at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater on Tuesday attracted everyone from flip-flop-wearing college kids to fully decorated Goths to 20-somethings who just wanted to rawk. Even though the show is an all-day affair, the tour -- which pulls into Nissan Pavilion on Sunday -- really centers on screamo rockers Taking Back Sunday, the theatrical and rakish My Chemical Romance and the studied rock/rap of Linkin Park.
The bands all projected an obvious desire to give fans an old-fashioned, eardrum-blowing rock'n' roll show, but TBS was the weakest musical link. Though singer Adam Lazzara and guitarist Fred Mascherino traded verses with a seesaw-like cadence, their vocals couldn't really be considered singing, but were more like passionate yelling.
"A Decade Under the Influence" was mostly unintelligible, yet it was still amusing to behold since bassist Matthew Rubano spent the song looking as if he were trying out for Ozzfest -- one foot on a monitor, his bass neck pointing skyward and hair whipping. All of the musicians are competent -- especially drummer Aaron Stern, a fill-in for TBS' Mark O'Connell, who is recuperating from a herniated disk, and Mascherino, who demonstrated his love for Eddie Van Halen with some impressive tapping.
But rather than concern themselves with song structure or melody, the band members seemed content to generate a blur of noise as their instruments competed for the forefront. At least the cumbersomely titled "This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)" contained a semblance of a chorus. Pockets of the crowd mostly on the younger end bounced and fist-pumped during TBS' 40-minute set, while the rest of the 11,000-plus fans sat back impassively, waiting for My Chemical Romance to arrive.
When that group did, it was to plumes of fire and strains of a church organ, the perfect atmospheric entrance for singer Gerard Way and his black-clad crew. Now sporting floppy brunet hair instead of the close-cropped blond that was part of the "look" for "The Black Parade," the band's stellar concept album, Way proved himself an ideal frontman and a strong live singer.
Drenched in sweat by the second song, Way continually stalked the stage like Tom Cruise's wild-eyed motivational speaker in "Magnolia," bounding through "The Sharpest Lives" and "I'm Not OK (I Promise)" with unbridled glee. Stuttering strobe lights and thunderous drumming (on two kits!) from Bob Bryar highlighted "Famous Last Words" from "The Black Parade," an album that truly shows the growth of a band from tuneless rock punks to artists interested in crafting something memorable.
Their two "wow" moments Tuesday came with the seething "Mama," a raging blend of cabaret and rock. Wearing a glittery black feather boa -- an apparent nod to Liza Minnelli, who sings on the recorded version -- Way pranced amid a symphony of fire and eerie yellow lighting. The title track of "The Black Parade," a monstrosity of a song that marries Queen with Green Day and David Bowie, thrived live, the audience singing and swaying along under spinning lights and a shower of sparks.
Compared with MCR's frenetic sweat-fest, Linkin Park, while tight and energetic, almost seemed too polite. The moody rap-rock that is the sextet's signature -- or was until the current album, "Minutes to Midnight" -- blasted with technical precision on "One Step Closer." Bennington's hyperactive hopping on and off metal crates while screaming was the perfect complement to Mike Shinoda's laid-back rhymes. But an awkward silence often fell between songs, halting the momentum produced by these tunes filled with torment and pain.
Who knows where Bennington, a meerkat of a fellow, gets his lung capacity, but when the band was playing he was usually center crate, neck veins bulging during "Points of Authority" and the bass-overloaded "Given Up." During a 90-minute set, Linkin Park's formula of serrated guitars, Bennington's bellows and Shinoda's fluid raps can get tiresome for the non-devotees. But there is no question that these guys were dedicated to reaching their fans with the alienation anthem (and crowd singalong song) "Numb" and challenging themselves musically by turning the beginning of "Breaking the Habit" into a pretty piano ballad.
Put it this way: If you like it loud and aggressive, Projekt Revolution has a lot to offer. It also has a lot of heart, an increasing anomaly these days.