Linkin Park

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Concert Review by Mark Bayross

Brixton Academy, London – Monday 4 June 2001

It’s funny to think that barely six months ago, Linkin Park didn’t even exist on the music scene. Since the release of their album “Hybrid Theory”, their rise to prominence has been frightening, and the poor blokes have had to deal with the backlash just as quickly. No sooner were they adorning the cover of every music magazine on earth, than the allegations of being a nu-metal boy band and playing just a little too perfectly started to flood in. Since when has perfection been a crime, exactly?

If nothing else, tonight’s sold out Brixton Academy show was an impressive demonstration of their omnipotence. I wasn’t sure what had happened to much touted support band Boy Hits Car – maybe I missed them while queuing round the block to get in.

Nonetheless, the other support band on the bill, Cardiff’s Lostprophets, put on a blistering performance. Much has been written about this band being courted by all the major labels in America, and they prove tonight that they have the energy – and the devoted fanbase – to claim the Next Big Thing crown, at least for now.

The band tear through much of their debut album, “Thefakesoundofprogress”, leaping all over the stage and wielding their guitars like lightsabres. They are already starting to display star potential – lead singer Ian Watkins seems more than comfortable with a crowd this size, and when the bassist lands on his arse, he re-emerges grinning like a Cheshire cat. They leave the stage to rapturous applause worthy of a headline act.

But judging by the roar that greets Linkin Park when they appear, no-one has forgotten who’s show this is. The opening bass notes of “A Place For My Head” drift across the crowd, then the guitar kicks in and 4,000 people slam in unison. Pretty soon it becomes clear that everyone in the crowd knows every song of the album, as tonight each chorus is accompanied by a mass singalong and each riff by frenzied moshing.

The first crowd-pleaser comes third song in, in the form of new single “Papercut”, by which point joint lead vocalists Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington are well ensconced in their respective roles. Mike gleefully works the crowd while Chester, de-mohicaned and looking uncannily like Robert Carlyle’s demented Bond villain, punctuates his melodic delivery with spine-tingling screams.

Then, after “Points Of Authority”, we are treated to two new songs – the rap-heavy “High Voltage” and the just plain old heavy “End One”. Recent criticism of Linkin Park’s nu-metal credentials must have had some kind of effect on the band, because the latter song is an absolute monster, by far the heaviest thing they’ve ever written. “We support free music”, states Shinoda, “so go ahead – download that shit!”

“In The End” and “Pushing Me Away” are followed by the massive “Crawling” and the crunchy “With You” and we’re in Nu-Metal Heaven. A couple of myths are also dispelled: as tight and professional as they are tonight, they are not flawless – “With You” is played with power and feeling, but it is by no means a carbon copy of the album version; and they do swear, judging by Chester’s expletive-laden banter with the crowd.

Finishing the main set with “Runaway”, Chester re-emerges with an acoustic guitar and sits on a stool under the spotlight. Just as we’re all wondering what the hell he’s doing, he starts berating the more overzealous elements of the crowd: “I don’t want to see any more girls coming over this barrier looking like they’ve had the shit kicked out of them!”, he spits, “What happened to chivalry? You see someone fall down, you pick ‘em up!”

Offering us the choice between hearing his solo acoustic rendition of Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says” or one of his own compositions, the crowd elects the latter, and he strums his way through “The Morning After”, a song “written about sleeping in my car”. The band re-emerge via Joe Hahn’s “Cure For The Itch” turntable wizardry, launching into “By Myself” and finishing inevitably with the anthemic “One Step Closer”.

One thing’s for sure tonight – the quality of Linkin Park’s songwriting cannot be denied. Every song on “Hybrid Theory” could be a potential single, and the album has obviously touched a great many people. It will be interesting to see how all the attention they are getting, good and bad, effects their future material, but on the strength of tonight’s show, you can bet they’re going to come out all guns blazing.