Linkin Park strikes an uneasy balance of old and new, mellow and intense.
So much for the rumors that Linkin Park has mellowed out.
The California hard-rock band, one of the top-selling groups of this decade, returned to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night in support of a more melodic, less snarling album, "Minutes to Midnight."
But aside from a few down-tempo tunes and a little arty flare here and there, the 90-minute performance offered the sextet's usual teeth-gnashing, Red Bull-spiked overload of angst, misery and chest-beating.
Playing to 13,300 fans -- about 80 percent male, 75 percent under age 25 and 10 percent wearing backward caps -- the group started out with one of its moodier and catchier new songs, "What I've Done," giving the audience members a chance to warm up their singing voices. Right afterward, though, it tore into two of its most frantic and spastic hits, "Faint" and "Somewhere I Belong," giving fans a chance to scream.
That pretty much proved to be the Linkin Park formula circa 2008. Every time a song edged on wimp territory, the band members immediately responded with an extra-feisty number. The faux gospel-rap tune "Points," for instance, was followed by the punky (and dim-witted) "Hands Held High." And the U2-ish "Valentine's Day" set the stage for the mega-angry mega-hit "Numb."
Originally part of the late-'90s rap-metal wave, Linkin Park deserves credit for outlasting that faded fad (although the arena's upper deck was half-empty, compared to when the band sold out the place in 2004).
Wednesday's show gave a pretty good idea of how LP has survived. The group -- featuring two frontmen, Chester Bennington (who sings) and Mike Shinoda (who raps) -- struck a sharp balance between the testosterone-fueled energy of forgotten rap-rock groups with the mopey angst of virtually every band a teenager has ever loved.
The concert was laden with countless woeful lines like, "I'd rather be alone," "Throw it all away" and "I'm sick of feeling." Most were sung by Bennington, who -- as one of the scrawniest, whiniest and just plain twerpiest singers in rock history -- skillfully made up for his shrill demeanor by randomly screaming three or four times in each song and endlessly flailing and jumping around. It was an MVP balancing act in a concert full of them.
The show's second of two openers, upstate New York quintet Coheed and Cambria, came off like an unlikely cross between a young emo band, an old thrash-metal group and Rush, but were actually much better than that sounds. C&C's shrub-haired, Muppet-looking singer Claudio Sanchez proved to be a powerful metal squealer, and the band cleverly used two female backup singers to help raise the melodies in epics like "In Keeping the Secrets of Silent Earth: 3." Any other hard-rock band would have just had the women there for eye candy.