In the end, Linkin Park stands ahead of dullards

08.05.2008
In retrospect, it's easy to explain how rap-metal upstarts Linkin Park achieved massive success even in the midst of a record-buying recession.
For starters, the L.A. group smartly excised meathead misogyny from its otherwise standard issue mix, maximizing its appeal. But more important, Linkin Park made the breakthrough observation that the singing and mediocre rapping didn't have to be done by the same guy. It sounds simple, but in the future the divide and conquer approach might be studied like a classic Super Bowl play.
The give-and-take between clunky rapper Mike Shinoda and singer Chester Bennington is what gives the band its tension, and that tension kept the sold-out crowd on its feet at the Allstate Arena on Thursday night. With the two vocalists frantically crisscrossing the stage between the equally mobile headphone-adorned guitarist Brad Delson and bassist Darren Farrell, the band was a flurry of excitement. Bennington's high, hoarse wail ran into (and over) Shinoda's rhymes, both occasionally strapped on guitars, and the latter even led a few tracks on piano, though the set-in-stone loud-soft dynamics and token electronic bleeps essentially blurred into one long, angst-ridden song.

But obviously that one song is connecting with a lot of people, because Linkin Park's diverse fan base -- impressively crossing age, gender and ethnic lines -- embraced each track with a fervor inspired by few other contemporary mainstream acts. Indeed, hits such as "Crawling," "In the End" and the particularly bitter "Faint" are as close as the radio has come to offering real adolescent anthems these days, and if their strict adherence to formula robs them of some suspense, there's no denying the effect they have on fans.
P.O.D., whose initials stand for Payable on Death but may as well mean Point of Dullness, has managed a pair of anthems of its own with "Alive" and the zeitgeist-tapping "Youth of the Nation," which, on Thursday, served as an excuse to invite a dozen fans onstage for the cathartic shout-along chorus. But otherwise its set was little more than bludgeoning, monochromatic hard rock neither melodic nor aggressive enough to leave much of an impression. Even the group's occasional hints of reggae sounded as if the San Diego act was simply rehashing trends that would have seemed cutting edge maybe 15 years ago, but today just feel flat. It didn't help that the green lasers looked like something picked up at a late-'80s yard sale.

Hoobastank, which followed the (almost) equally terribly named opener Story of the Year, demonstrated that it may have enough going for it to circumvent the inevitable flash-in-the-pan implosion. That certain something is, ironically, nothing, which is to say the band's proudly middle-of-the-road and blandly melodic hard rock may help it navigate any sudden trend shifts. After all, radio always needs palatable filler, and Hoobastank's good attitude and constant tour schedule should keep the California band in the public eye, even if few would probably recognize the group passing on the street.

Chicago Tribune - February 1, 2004


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