Music

Linkin Park: Road to Revolution Live at Milton Keynes / Songs from the Underground

Photo by James Minchin

Road to Revolution, like the band itself, is slickly-produced, mostly soulless, but somehow not entirely without merit.


Linkin Park

Road to Revolution Live at Milton Keynes

Contributors: Jay Z, Fort Minor
Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2008-11-25
UK Release Date: 2009-11-24
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

Linkin Park

Songs From the Underground

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2008-11-24
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

Like most college students, I have a CD collection back home that I try not to talk about. Mine is in the living room, in a cupboard to the right of the television, under a set of Muzzy language-learning tapes. And in that collection, sandwiched neatly between Nickelback's Silver Side Up and Third Eye Blind's Blue, is a scratched, well-worn copy of Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory.

I listened to the album obsessively between seventh and ninth grades, and while I was writing this review I was trying to remember why. I think that to my twelve-year-old self there was something very appealing about the band's earnest-but-vague anger. I was angry, too, though I had no reason to be -- it was a rage born more out of hormones than circumstance. I knew, even then, that my feelings were unearned, and so I felt a little guilty listening to bands like, say, Rage Against the Machine, that had real and specific grievances. Linkin Park's undirected vitriol served me better.

It is with no small amount of nostalgia, then, that I come to Road to Revolution Live at Milton Keynes. I've kept tabs on Linkin Park, of course, in the same way that a father might collect newspaper clippings of his estranged son. Meteora, but for the singles, was underwhelming. Minutes to Midnight was downright disappointing, but I appreciated the tentative stabs at artistic growth. And this latest offering I find neither as good Hybrid Theory seemed nine years ago, nor as bad as I expected it to be. Road to Revolution, like the band itself, is slickly produced, mostly soulless, but somehow not entirely without merit.

Watching the DVD, I was blown away by both the sheer size of the crowd and the incredible production values. The National Bowl in Milton Keynes is a 65,000-person venue, and if it wasn't filled to capacity, I'll eat my laptop. Over this crowd spin dozens of cameras, all of them in constant motion and all of them pointed at the gargantuan stage upon which the six band members cavort. The picture is absolutely clear. The band is covered from every conceivable camera angle. The lighting setup must suck as much juice as the Vegas strip on a Saturday night. The sound is crisp and clear. Clearly, concert DVDs have improved while my back was turned.

You might think that Linkin Park's music is the kind that wouldn't necessarily improve in a live setting. You would be right, especially since the years of screaming appear to have taken a serious toll on singer Chester Bennington's vocal cords. Out of the studio, his voice is thin and reedy, and no matter what note he is meant to be singing, he is consistently a half-step flat. He has enthusiasm enough -- he spends the whole show bounding from one side of the stage to the other -- but I can't help but wonder if the exuberance is to make up for his poor performance. "Okay, I can't quite do this anymore," he seems to be saying, "but look how hard I'm trying!"

The rest of the band is competent but not particularly impressive. Mike Shinoda long ago perfected his brand of lazy rock-rap, and he lays down a few easy-but-melodic keyboard parts on songs like "In the End" and "What I've Done". Joe Hahn spends most of the concert pressing buttons on his bewilderingly large DJ setup, and I have a gnawing suspicion that he was covering for his bandmates at least some of the time. Guitarist Brad Delson and bassist Dave Farrell look more bored than anything, but Rob Bourden looks like he's having a blast behind his drum set. (He even takes a surprising -- and surprisingly well-composed -- drum solo during the encore.)

Sadly, Hybrid Theory is underrepresented in the set, with only the megahits ("In the End", "Crawling", and "One Step Closer") and a weird piano version of "Pushing Me Away" making appearances. The band leans most heavily on Minutes, although material from the band's collaboration with Jay Z and from Shinoda's side-project Fort Minor is also included. In fact, the highlight of the set is undoubtedly the one-two punch of "Numb/Encore" and "Jigga What/Faint", both of which feature Shawn Carter in the flesh. It's too bad that they come after a seventeen-song set that starts to sound the same after three, but hey, isn't that why they embed chapters on these things?

My copy of Road to Revolution also came with an EP called Songs from the Underground, which is either available only at Best Buy, or only through the band's fan club -- I can't seem to figure out which. I doubt that anyone who was actually in danger of joining the Linkin Park fanclub read beyond the third paragraph or so of this review, but for those of you who made it this far, I'll tell you that the EP is a decidedly mixed bag. There is a cover of Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike", in which Bennington sings Eddie Vedder's vocal part, that manages to be even more execrable than the original. (Asked a week ago if this was possible, I would have said no.) There's also a live version of "My December" in which Shinoda, having apparently forgotten how to play the original's perfectly adequate piano melody, seems to simply press notes at random instead.

But there are also a number of songs from the early days of the band, some of which are over a decade old, and these songs are really interesting. Hahn's presence is much more pronounced; his scratches and whirrs were, at that point, an almost essential part of the music. Shinoda's rapping is leaner, and forms the backbone of the songs instead of merely being thrown into them. My favorite of the tracks is "Sold My Soul to Yo Momma", a two-minute hodgepodge of scratches, drum hits, and faraway vocals, built upon a simple bassline. And after the song ends there's a moment or two of silence, and someone -- probably Barrington, but I like to think it's the ever-silent Hahn -- says, "This is so fun. This whole project is, like, fun." It's a side of the band I've never seen before (fun?), and if nothing else, it makes me wonder what they might have been like had their first album not sold ten million copies.

4

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.