Live: Can Linkin Park Cure Cancer?

TOYOTA CENTER — 3/3/11: Cancer is no joking matter, but if we ever want to be closer to a cure, we need to first try a Linkin Park IV of Mike Shinoda synths and Chester Bennington vocals, with Joe Hahn‘s scratches, Rob Bourdon‘s drumming, Brad Delson‘s guitar and David Farrell‘s bass thrown in for good measure; because after Thursday night’s show at Toyota Center, it seems like these boys can do anything. Linkin Park would kick cancer’s ass.

Paper Tongues, managed by Randy Jackson, of all people, opened things up instead of The Prodigy, which was the original opening act for the US side of the tour. From Charlotte, North Carolina, Paper Tongues eased their way through a well-orchestrated set that was a strong fusion of rock, hip-hop influence, funk, and soul, yet was well-suited for such a large venue, with stadium-catered songs that echoed 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park themselves. They engaged the audience, used the stage, and repeatedly thanked Linkin Park for the opportunity to be there. Lead singer Aswan North‘s vocals were incredible, easily making a top-10 list of modern rock voices, although at spots the lyrics left something to be desired.

When the lights went down, hundreds of cell phones extended into the air. A lone synthesizer pad rung out across an empty stage as the opening sequence of “The Requiem” swelled. There was not one person in their seats as Linkin Park came out. Bennington and crew showed no ill effects of the sickness that made them reschedule their February 15th date, causing this to be the final stop of their US tour. Thankfully, Shinoda sported a beard to keep him from looking like a twelve-year-old kid actor on Nickelodeon, and bassist Farrell walked the stage in a cowboy hat which I can only hope was his attempt at paying homage.

Kicking off with “Papercut,” they started their set with a slow burn and stoked it into a raging fire. They pulled off a superb LP playlist, performing their newer work like “When They Come For Me,” “Waiting For The End,” and “The Catalyst,” but not shying away from older classics like “Numb,” “Breaking the Habit,” and “Crawling.”

There was an awesome moment in the show when Joe Hahn performed a solo on his turntables. The sampler was connected to a video feed so every scratch, stammer, and digital stutter was reflected on the large overhead console. He hunched over his table, pushing buttons and swiping pads until the crowd went into a frenzy.

It’s just interesting watching Hahn behind the turntables because he’s rarely involved in a song from start to finish, so you’ve got to wonder what he does for most of the set. Well, he generally just stands there and takes sips from his Vitamin Water. There will be times when he’ll bob his head or pump his fists, and there was a moment where he took Brad Delson’s extra guitar picks and flung them at him, beaming one off the back of Brad’s head, but for the most part, he just stands there. No wonder he’s been getting chubby over the years — you don’t burn a lot of calories flinging guitar picks.

Contrast that with drummer Rob Bourdon, who looks like he’s on a nonstop elliptical machine. That dude must be the fittest guy in the band, keeping time with a maniacal precision that’s necessary when you play along to samples and pre-recorded video tracks and was only matched that night by the constant jumping and screaming of the crowd.

For his part, while Bennington had been sick weeks before, now he seemed well over it, leaping into the air like Mitsurugi from Soulcalibur, pirouetting often and hitting those trademark vocals with precision. On one side of the stage was a Lone Star flag, on which was written a thank-you for letting them reschedule, and while I appreciate the sentiment, how dare you desecrate the great flag of Texas? The irony wasn’t lost on me how he got the entire crowd to sing along to “No More Sorrow,” which is a scathing condemnation of former President George Bush, Jr., in his own state, no less.

Going strong for over an hour, they finally ended the set with “One Step Closer,” leaving the stage for the crowd to roar for an encore. Now, it’s the last date of their US tour, and they’re the headliners. You know there’s going to be an encore, so you would think there’s really no need to have the crowd scream, whistle, and chant for so long. Maybe they felt entitled, after enjoying such a long successful career? It wasn’t long before thousands of iPhones illuminated the darkness, reminding me of what it would be like to be stuck in the movie Avatar for a night. It was a surreal sight, prompting Bennington to call it the most amazing thing he’s ever seen in his life (a line I’m sure he only says at every show).

While I’d been expecting your standard three-song encore, the band seemingly launched into another whole set. Dishing out another six songs, they were on full burn, with even Shinoda jumping into the crowd, being pulled on one side by a massive throng of concert-goers and on the other side by a life-line of huge, burly security guards.

If the true measure of a show is the satisfaction of the people who spent their money to be there, it definitely says something that as the ten thousand or so people filed out of Toyota Center, all I saw were exhausted patrons and smiling faces. END

(Photos by Dre Giles.)

Live review by . Live review posted Wednesday, March 9th, 2011. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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