Linkin Park not yet a headliner

08.05.2008
Before Linkin Park took the stage in front of 18,000-plus fans at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night, a disc jockey from a rock radio station pointed out how far the rap-metal band had come -- and how fast.

"I saw Linkin Park headline a little hole-in-the-wall down the street called Ryan's three years ago," Remy Maxwell of 93X (93.7 FM) told the sold-out crowd.

Linkin Park's climb to the top of the charts with hits such as "Crawling" and "Somewhere I Belong" has been rock's quickest ascent in years. Saturday's concert showed it might have been too abrupt.

The Southern California sextet is not yet a convincing arena-rock headliner. Even at a short 90 minutes, its set was still only about half-great. For every one of the group's ecstatically received radio hits, there was another tune that dragged and/or showcased the melodramatic aspects of its misery-loving catharsis rock.

Led by dueling vocalists Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington (one raps, the other sings . . . sort of), Linkin Park's members pride themselves on being regular, common rock musicians who don't wear fancy clothes or act like big stars. This no-frills approach works for bands such as Pearl Jam and Metallica, but they each have a long list of crowd-pleasing songs beyond their radio hits.

Not only did Linkin Park come up short with many of its not-so-famous tunes, it stumbled by playing several dullards during the show's one long encore. It was a less than grand finale. You knew things were going to falter when a piano was rolled out for "My December." The band kept this lackluster pace going with the drab "Push Me Away" and a clumsy "Place For My Head."

Not all the nonessential tunes came off poorly. Earlier in the show, the X-ecutioners collaboration "It's Goin' Down" suggested that Linkin Park actually is one rap-metal band that is better with the rap.
But of course, it's the catchier stuff with the tirelessly repetitive choruses that gets played on the radio -- songs like "Numb" and "Crawling," which Bennington sang off-key and without much conviction. It didn't matter, though. The crowd filled in and buoyed the show when it counted most.

Many fans' energy might have been spent by the time Linkin Park took the stage, as opening bands P.O.D. and Hoobastank were far better-received than typical support acts. (Fourth band Story of the Year was missed by half the audience thanks to Ice Palace-related traffic that truly was frozen).

Hoobastank earned the night's first big singalong with its urgent, emo-flavored hit "Running Away."
P.O.D. also got great response with its two singles, "Youth of the Nation" and "Alive," but the rap-metal band -- which just broke in a new guitarist -- was able to keep the crowd rocking with lesser-known songs "Southtown" and "Change the World." To be fair, though, P.O.D. has been put in almost twice as much time on the road as Linkin Park: a whopping six years.

Star Tribune - February 2, 2004


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