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Linkin Park

(29 Jan 2011: Sprint Center — Kansas City, MO)

For a band that is as talented and prominent as Linkin Park, they rely far too much on charm and cheesy gimmickry to win over their audience. The band even has its own semi-gang (LP Underground) and charity (Music for Relief). Tonight’s show featured nearly every trick in the book save for the prurient sense of “trick” (but I hereby posit the band came close to that too); one could call it Kardashian-ing:  excessive clapping, not actually singing, filler and drawn-out songs, not actually playing guitar, incoherent videos, not actually playing synthesizer, using drums as a prop, switching instruments prior to every song, raising arms foolishly in the air, sharing germs with the crowd, twice, and, still, exhaustively praising the host city. 


The point here is that if the band simply played its music in a naked and honest fashion, sans all the superfluous wining and dining, they would be a top live act instead of merely above average. It seemed the band was rather interested in matrimony over music in performance. Apologies, Linkin Park, but you’re neither Alice Cooper nor David Bowie (though Chester Bennington did dress like a villain from Alex Proyas’s sci-fi film Dark City), and your current brand of theatre is specifically a sadly pathetic waste of time. It is a sweet but grand distraction from your actual music—which is typically decent—not any sort of augmentation of it.


That said, Linkin Park put on an above average show at Sprint Center; few bands can accomplish that. The rap, rock, and, now I suppose, electronic-dance band is hawking its newest and most ambitious album, A Thousand Suns (2010), produced by band member Mike Shinoda and prestigious studio guru Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Metallica). The band showcased eleven of the fifteen songs from A Thousand Suns, a rather bold and cocky move. Indeed, it was an incredible mistake because six of the eleven new songs were simply filler material in a most tangible fashion; many of these six songs are, for instance, not even two minutes long. “Empty Spaces” is a fatuous eighteen seconds in length. Anyway, these six songs worked as far as set-piece material, but they really should not have been performed at all, with the exception of the opener, “The Requiem.”


Playing nearly the whole of a concept album with a few pointed songs was not, then, a Solomonic action, and aside from the band’s desire to distract and waste time, it also seems that they are trying too hard, to a fault, to win acclaim. I especially mean the punctuated use of electronic and dance elements present in A Thousand Suns, and the entire notion of producing a concept album to begin with. Linkin Park is trying to accomplish too many items at one time, and this unfortunately was evident in Kansas City. The band has a loyal following that cheers for about everything. Still, the cheers were much louder during the band’s established hits:  “Numb”, “Crawling,” “Faint”, “One Step Closer”, “What I’ve Done”, “In The End”, and “Bleed It Out.” I’d bet that if the band played “Hands Held High” and cut about four new songs, the show would have been better and cheery overall. This fact is both good and bad, but probably bad because it suggests that the true believers aren’t buying into, or literally buying, most of the new songs. 


Highlights included mostly well-known songs, especially the guitar-based rock of “No More Sorrow” from Minutes to Midnight (2008). But also some oddballs won approval, such as “Breaking the Habit” during which Bennington sung a cappella quite convincingly. “New Divide” sounded impeccable live; on record it sounds like a bastardized and generic version of “What I’ve Done.” The band played “One Step Closer” and “Bleed It Out” back to back to much acclaim, especially when Bennington jumped into the crowd during the latter song. From the new album, two songs were well-done: “The Catalyst” and “Waiting for the End.” “Burning in the Skies” wasn’t bad, either. The band still has some kinks to work out in “The Catalyst.”


Bennington didn’t know what to do during part of the Euro-dance bits, and chose to fall to the floor. But the song is powerful because it is one of the few new songs that meaningfully combine Shinoda and Bennington on vocals. “When They Come For Me” was especially embarrassing, with Shinoda rapping as if he were Dr. Dre or Snoop Dogg in the early 1990s, and, though savvy, he sounded totally absurd. Linkin Park surely played an above average gig, but it was not exceptional. The band needs to take some cues from 311 and just play your music with few gimmicks involved. 


Setlist:  The Requiem, Papercut, Lying From You, Given Up, What I’ve Done, Empty Spaces; When They Come For Me, No More Sorrow, Jornada Del Muerto, Waiting For The End, Burning In The Skies, Numb, The Radiance, Breaking The Habit, Fallout, The Catalyst, Crawling, One Step Closer, Bleed It Out, Wisdom, Justice, and Love, Iridescent, Shadow of the Day, In The End, New Divide, Faint.

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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