Linkin Park proves rap-rock's alive
08.05.2008Pop pundits declared rap-rock dead months ago, but Linkin Park's sold-out show at the Alliant Energy Center Friday night proved that the genre's combination of hip-hop and heavy guitars still has plenty of life left in it.
The reason Linkin Park has been able to carry on where others have failed (remember when Limp Bizkit seemed relevant?) is that the band has a sense of melody and harmony that's equally as strong as its understanding of beats and riffs.
Whereas the sets by openers P.O.D. and Hoobastank ground to a sludgy halt during extended stretches of tuneless thunder, songs like "Somewhere I Belong" and "Crawling" soared with memorable hooks delivered with equal parts passion and professionalism.
Opening in spotlighted silhouette behind a banner that bore its name, the band ripped into "Runaway," from its debut album "Hybrid Theory," and split the rest of the 75-minute set equally between that album and tracks from 2003's "Meteora." While the newer album doesn't explore significantly new musical territory, Linkin Park exploits a winning formula well.
Exemplified by the shared vocals of rapper Mike Shinoda and singer Chester Bennington, who manages to somehow create his own harmonics in his tuneful scream, the band's sound exhibits a pop sensibility even at its most aggressive, as on "Papercut" and "Points of Authority."
And when they broke out the grand piano for the ballad "Breaking the Habit," they offered a glimpse of what Radiohead might sound like if they still played rock music - experimental yet still accessible.
Linkin Park loaded the end of the set with its strongest material. The delicate "Numb" led into the aching "Crawling," and they wrapped things up with the pounding "In the End," which found Bennington deliberately prowling the stage, waiting to deliver the choruses while Shinoda shouted out the verses from the middle of the crowd. (Deadline prevented me from seeing the band's encore.)
Preceding Linkin Park was P.O.D., whose albums combine punk, grunge, hip-hop and Latin rhythms. While their biggest hits, "Alive" and "Youth of a Nation," offered up anthemic singalongs, the rest of their set gave no hint of the dynamics of which they're capable on record. Songs like "Change the World" and "Will You" packed plenty of rhythmic punch and guitar crunch, but the nuances were lost in the bombast.
The same went for Hoobastank, who scored massive hits in 2001 with "Crawling in the Dark" and "Running Away." Both of those songs shone, but the rest of their 30-minute opening set was nondescript, forgettable modern rock, made practically insufferable by lead singer Doug Robb's repeated and insincere exhortation that the crowd was "the best we've ever had."
Luckily, Hoobastank did reveal a sense of humor, with a snippet of what Robb jokingly called "the greatest song ever written," Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
Story of the Year was scheduled to begin the night, but were inexplicably absent. That led to the evening's second funniest moment, when Shinoda asked the crowd to give it up for a band that didn't even play.
The Capital Times - January 31, 2004