Linkin Park – review

Arena, Manchester

When they emerged in 2001, people knew what to expect from Linkin Park. They were a junior Limp Bizkit, a nu-metal boy band who fused rap and grunge to sell millions of albums. A decade on, their fans arrive in Range Rovers rather than being chased out of the house by their parents. The band themselves are sensible-haired dads and no longer make the sort of music that would curdle the milk of anyone over 16. Their latest album, A Thousand Suns, has been compared to Radiohead and Pink Floyd.

The band have certainly learned a few tricks, including how to put on a terrific stadium show. The stage is decked with giant screens, but it is low and reaches right into the arena, giving the simultaneous impression of a spectacle and being "one with the fans", who sing the choruses back like some enormous choir. Main vocalist Chester Bennington occasionally finds an area away from the spotlights at the side of the stage, where he dances quietly during Mike Shinoda's rap and singing spots and waves at individual fans who catch his eye. They just seem to be putting more in than the average stadium-rock band.

But the most eyebrow-raising transformation is musical. A process of what they call "destroying and rebuilding our band" seems to have brought them a measure of maturity. Where early Linkin Park songs sound like your father gargling in the morning with the car running, their newer stuff includes pianos, ballads and electronica, and Bennington is actually crooning. Robot Boy – featuring two drum kits – induces the fervour of Queen's Radio Ga Ga at Live Aid; other tracks could be Muse if they'd come from metal and not pomp-rock; Iridescent is simply a (gulp) beautiful song.

There is the occasional misfire: whereas Bono would shine a giant wartime spotlight over U2's crowds, Bennington makes do with the kind of flimsy-looking torch you'd find at your local DIY shop. Waiting for the End's rap intro sounds a bit Boney M, but suddenly switches into a blissed-out haze comparable to Primal Scream's beatific Higher Than the Sun, before erupting again into a sublime chorus about existential panic. The gigantic Numb sounds like a mixture of Depeche Mode and Take That. When Bennington sings an ambient melody into a vocoder, he completes what must be one of the decade's most unlikely reinventions.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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