Review by Zyllah Moranne- Brown

It’s a very warm night as a few thousand head towards Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena. Tonight’s main (and only) artists have always kinda divided opinion; like Marmite – you love them or hate them. Their latest offering has also added to that confusion with somewhat of a backlash from the critics. The fans are here in droves, so clearly they don’t feel that; so welcome tonight to Bennington, Shinoda and the rest of the chaps who make up Linkin Park, this date part of their ‘One More Light’ World Tour.

Linkin Park

So Linkin Park. Formed 20 years ago in Califiornia, by three high school mates Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson – it took them 5 years to be in the right place, some band member changes, and an introduction to singer pilfered from a post-grunge band – Chester Bennington. Finally in 2000 they released their debut album, gossip circulating at the time with rumours of them being a “manufactured” band.  But no matter. That album was ‘Hybrid Theory.’ And it went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide making it the biggest selling debut album in the 21st Century. ‘One More Light’ is their seventh studio album and can only surely add to their tally of over 70 million album sales worldwide.

Okay – so I’ve never seen Linkin Park before, unlike many of the avid fans tonight. Here at Gig Junkies our original intention was to cover their Manchester gig, but with the Arena still closed after the awful terrorist attack, the band cancelled the gig. Some of tonight’s fans snapped up any remaining tickets at Birmingham’s Barclaycard and the venue is full;  fans of a wide age range and clearly wide musical tastes.  A couple of points to note, unusually there is no support. I can’t remember the last time this happened (if you discount bands that regularly do 3 + hour sets like The Cure or Elvis Costello) and the standing areas is bizarrely split in half by a barrier…

Due on at 8.30pm any slight deviation in music or light set the fans cheering and whistling, the atmosphere is building. Not time. Not quite yet.

To a massive scream from the crowd, the light’s fall to darkness at 8.45.  They’re here in the blue-lit smoke-filled stage, first leading with newbie and the ‘commercial side’ of Linkin Park ‘Talking to Myself.’ Bennington’s in his shades, Shinoda behind the decks, the rest of the crew are in their places. ‘Burn It Down’ drumbeat, the crowd clapping, more akin to the Linkin Park sound, Bennington’s bouncing, a party rock band complimented with rapping.

Tonight’s set is clearly a lighting engineer’s dream. As the rigs in the canopy twist and turn, no video backdrop, just colours drenching from a multitude of spots through dry ice. Screens at the side of the stage featuring the live performance to those far away can see. ‘Wastelands’ – “Let’s GO!” the band are bouncing around and as the band completes the song, Bennington takes to the platform that leads into the front of the crowd.  A deep-throated grunge scream from him and the crowd scream back in appreciation.

A teaser. Then here we go. ‘One Step Closer.’ The punters, they be singing. Loudly. “Shut up!…….Shut up!…….Shut up ‘cos I’m talking to you!….break!”

Breathe. ‘Castle of Glass’ – goes all full on dance / rave in the middle. ‘Lost in the Echo’ jump jump – back in a heavy dance beat. I get, observing, why Linkin Park divide opinion. Their mix of multiple genres pop, rock, alternative, commercial, hip-hop, electronica and probably many more is a mass of confusion to the musical senses. Watching on it’s about sticking with it. And let’s be honest it’s hits that make it.

The chords, the power – here we go. ‘New Divide.’ We sing “Give me reason….” We sing. Of course. Followed by ‘From the Inside‘ a pop start, Shinoda rapping. Bennington screams the chorus and boom, gut-wrenchingly shrieks: “I won’t waste myself on you.. you…you.” The band all bouncing round the stage – the crowd enthralled and singing their heads off.  Now… I’m beginning to get it. Standout track so far.

The next couple take the tone down, ‘Waiting for the Enemy‘ scarily way too boy band for my liking. ‘Breaking the Habit’ – the crowd sing  and then left to sing alone, Bennington supervising.  A break – and the first real time words from the band.Real quick. Share our love and thoughts with Manchester Arena….” Bennington  says the band are heart-broken by events  and sends out love to all affected and implores a change to these times. Group hug. Linkin Park style. Now he’s on the barriers leaning over the crowd, hundred of phone lights (replacing the good old lighters of gigs gone past)  and set ups a million stars around the arena in accompaniment to ‘One More Light.’

Then. Alone. Bennington. Fans wrapped around him as he stands on the barriers singing ‘Crawling.’ “There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface….consuming, confusing…. “ before a full screamed chorus ” Crawling in my skin, These wounds they will not heal, Fear is how I fall, Confusing what is real…” From commercial hit to something far more powerful.

But let’s not take time to catch our breath. Go! ‘Somewhere I Belong.’ ‘What I’ve Done’,  ‘In the End’,’Faint.’ Wow. Full on. Breathe now y’all – catch a breathe.

Encore – acoustic number: ‘Sharp Edges.’ But hey it was never gonna end like that ‘Numb’. The every energetic and hyperfit Bennington proves the point, topless and showing his intricate tattoos and the band complete the set with ‘Heavy’, ‘Papercut’ and ‘Bleed It Out.’

So. Linkin Park. Why does this work ‘cos on so many levels it shouldn’t? The ferociously loyal fan base they’ve maintained that through their 17 years of hits; these guys are no longer the nu-metal kids – now touching their forties. Live performance they are (mostly) intense, energetic, you are drawn in and kinda mesmerized by it. As they float through the experimentation of genres, for me personally, I prefer a Linkin Park song on the harder musical side with complete with at least one Bennington feral shriek. New material may not be everyone’s cuppa tea – but in the end, it doesn’t even matter……

Talking to Myself
Burn It Down
The Catalyst
One Step Closer
Castle of Glass
Good Goodbye
Lost in the Echo
Battle Symphony
New Divide
From the Inside
Waiting for the Enemy
Breaking the Habit
One More Light
Leave Out the Rest
Somewhere I Belong
What I’ve Done
In the End

Sharp Edges
Bleed It Out

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