We hold these truths to be self-evident, that the best gigs are those of the bands you know to perfection (B-sides and side-projects included), the bands you grew up with no matter the age you first heard them. In December 2012, I will be celebrating a decade since I first considered myself a Linkin Park fan. However, the celebration came a bit early, as the boys finally decided to rock Romania on June 6th, prompting a lot of the 10.000+ fans, gathered at the oh so familiar venue – Romexpo, to loudly proclaim the likes of “this is a dream come true” or “I’ve been waiting for this since high-school’’. The surprising truth is that Linkin Park have been around for a relatively long time now. It just goes to show that being in a constant development and not being afraid to experiment (A Thousand Suns was the most underground mainstream album of 2010) has paid off. Different people have different notions of what the Linkin Park ‘sound’ is.
I won’t waste too many pixels on discussing the opening acts. Suffice to say that the first two were forgettable, while the third was really annoying. The headliners were punctual, taking the stage while the sun was just about to set. Turntable master and resident LP video director, Mr. Hahn (in a Captain America t-shirt) was the first to greet the sea of Balkan fans, amplifying the anticipation with some pensive piano/beat moods. He and drummer Rob took their places, while the rest of the outfit was getting ready on the side. What better soundtrack for a confident prance (Mike Shinoda) or an aggressive run (Chester Bennington) on stage than the opening beats from Faint? It’s the first age-old rule in the Book of Gigs: blow their minds on the opening track (and don’t let them rest the first 15 minutes – Blackout was a much needed melodic breather at that point)! Take a mix of classic Hybrid Theory bangers like Papercut, With You and Runaway, add the metal-ish Given Up from Minutes to Midnight, stir with two dynamic frontmen, and what you’ll get is anything but rest.
No wonder Linkin Park still feels like a fresh band, the members still look like college kids having fun! And it’s definitely refreshing to see a band which does not badmouth their first album. The setlist was filled with stuff that put this band on the map, right on their 2000 debut. A Place for My Head still has one of the best riffs in the last twenty years, Points of Authority and One Step Closer reminded us how cool nu-metal can be and I’m sure a lot of folks were happy to sing along to the chorus of In the End – only this time with the band actually in front of them. No wonder Shinoda chose that track as the moment for a bit of crowd-hugging (after he got the ‘ok’ nod from the appropriate staff). Some tectonic plates of crowd shifted that moment, everyone stepping of anyone’s toes to get a tactile memory of the multitalented frontman.
Linkin Park is quite the generous band in their live shows. Having two frontmen comes in handy in keeping everyone happy, and making every corner of the audience feel special. The four podiums carefully bolted on the front of the stage are a great and original addition, offering even the fans in the back a chance to get a glimpse of their idols. The Romanian flag taped to Shinoda’s keyboards was also a nice touch (the second age-old rule in the Book of Gigs: get a flag of the country you’re in). The axemen of the band went through an eclectic compilation of guitars (Phoenix definitely has a fetish for ‘trophies of war’ basses), with three of them performing multiple duties: Brad Delson played guitar and keyboards, Bennington did some drumming and riffing besides vocals, while Shinoda often took the center of the stage, as MC, guitarist and keyboardist.
There was plenty of headbanging on the more serious rock numbers, like Somewhere I Belong, New Divide (which had to be postponed because of a keyboard glitch and called for “A change of plans”, as announced by Bennington) or What I’ve Done. The two taste samples from the upcoming album (out later this month), Living Things, namely the energy rush Lies, Greed, Misery and the catchy new single, Burn It Down, went down really nice, with everyone already chanting the lyrics. And speaking of chanting, no Linkin Park gig is complete without a memorable ballad, or in this case, three. Leave Out All the Rest, Shadow of the Day and Iridescent were combined in a medley of heartfelt crowd+band hymn singing – a reminder that this band does have a significant emotional and melodic core, besides the screaming, riffs and beats. Of course, what followed was screaming, riffs and beats, (including a nod to the recently deceased Adam Yauch in the form of a Sabotage cover), the LA outfit finishing strong with the party starter Bleed It Out – the third age-old rule in the Book of Gigs: always leave them wanting more!