There’s no denying that at one point Linkin Park were an absolute juggernaut in modern rock. Propelled to stardom with the release of 2000’s Hybrid Theory, they were the darlings of nu metal, rap metal and teenage angst. I’m the first to admit I’ve not kept up with their more recent releases. To be honest half of them I wasn’t even aware of, and I’m not the only one. It feels like the marketing dollars dried up very quickly as their fame ebbed slightly. That said, they’re still going strong, still evolving creatively, still with the same line up and still more than capable of selling out stadiums and arenas around the world.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a current Linkin Park show. Straight off the bat, the newer material sadly isn’t quite what you want it to be in a live setting. A little weaker on the guitar, more melodic and with a stronger pop sensibility. This isn’t a bad thing of course, and I respect the band for taking the direction they want. The songs themselves sound great on record, but the lack of energy doesn’t translate well to the stage and I hestitate to say, it feels like they’re going through the motions for the first 20 minutes.
However this all changes when they bring out the first of the big guns, namely One Step Closer. The energy and aggression of the Hybrid Theory and Meteora days is alive and well in this band. It sets the tone for the rest of the huge 26 song set and feels like it was what they needed to actually get in to their own show. From then on they weave in and out of old and new, pop and metal, soft and heavy. It’s a truly varied set, which was at times almost it’s undoing. Many of the newer songs saw people checking their phones or nipping to the bar, but they kept pulling the attention back in with any one of their numerous arena rock titans. New Divide, Numb, Papercut, What I’ve Done, they all keep pushing the audience more and more on to their feet and raise the energy to superb levels until the crowd have gone from holding a pint and quietly clapping to inititating numerous circle pits.
They’re also one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard. Everything was precise to within a fraction of a second, and Chester’s voice was absolutely flawless. He didn’t miss one note or fall flat and his scream sounds like a crack of thunder in the O2. The absolute highlight came when he performed a soft piano accompanied version of Crawling, which he sang directly into a front row of hysteric super fans. It was a heart wrenching rendition of arguably their most popular song, and one that I felt privileged to have seen in person.
The biggest thing I took away from the whole event, is how genuinely happy they seemed to be up on that stage. Like it was their first time in front of a big audience. They were beaming with smiles and grateful to be there, and as Chester took a long sweeping bow you could see he was not taking any of this for granted. After 17 years of Linkin Park it’s amazing to see their humility is intact and their power and eagerness to deliver a great show is still a driving force. Most of all, they look like a group of teenage guys thrashing out their first songs in a garage somewhere, remembering why they started doing this in the first place.