Angry nu-metal just a stroll for Linkin Park

07.05.2008
Think of a Linkin Park concert not as just a rock show, but as a kind of group therapy. Thousands of fans -- mostly adolescents with a sprinkling of adults -- all come to commune with the Los Angeles-based group, to rage along to its raucous songs.

Linkin Park delivered the angst for 80 blistering minutes on Thursday, headlining a sold-out show at the Allstate Arena that also included Story of the Year, Hoobastank and P.O.D.

The headliners have worked hard to be mature members of the nu-metal genre, fusing hard rock with elements of rap, arty samples and, on last year's "Meteora," even recording with a full orchestra. The sextet sports two singers, rapper Mike Shinoda and crooner Chester Bennington, who perform tag-team harmonies. But despite these winning novelties, Linkin Park never seems able to fully evade its genre's unfortunate restrictions.

As the band blasted through the revved-up opener "With You," followed in rapid succession by equally charged numbers such as the incessant "One Step Closer," you couldn't help but notice how similar sounding its repertoire is.

The group subscribes to a formula that goes something like this: Songs begin with scratchy grooves (thanks to excellent DJ Joseph Hahn and fine rhymes by Shinoda), a barrage of guitar kicks in, surging to a big, easy release when Bennington unleashes a line like: "Stay away from me!" with a feral yelp.
Masterful at capturing anger, the band could benefit from a dose of subtlety.

In fact, the most emotional moment of the night came at the set's barest musical moment. Shinoda sat behind a grand piano, plunking out the spare notes of "Breaking the Habit," while Bennington emoted. The song, about learning to let go, unfurled around the haunting melody. For a minute or so, it captured insecurity with true heart. But just in time for the chorus, the rest of the band barreled in, marring the moment with a ham-fisted arrangement.

Despite the puerile sentiments, Linkin Park had no problem connecting with its fans, who eagerly sang along to hits such as "Crawling" and the vengeful "In the End." And it didn't hurt that the group knew how to work the crowd, criss-crossing the stage with energy and panache, jumping on platforms in time to the frenetic rhythms and blitz of lights. The staging amplified the band's emotional tunes, with artful videos and roving lighting rigs providing colorful backup.

If only the group channeled the same energy into communicating in a non-formulaic manner, it might break from conventions.

Opening act P.O.D. (which stands for Payable on Death) attempted for most of its 40-minute set to spice up rather generic hard rock with its new-age mysticism and lead singer Sonny Sandoval's hip-hop-flavored vocals. Despite an aggressive drive, a muddy sound mix rendered the band's music as cryptic as the symbols -- forlorn looking skulls and eyeballs -- that dotted the stage. Eventually, the set bled together into an unremarkable mix.

Chicago SunTimes - January 30, 2004


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