LINKIN PARK @ COMFORT DENTAL AMPHITHEATRE | 8/30/12
Sometime around the middle part of the last decade, the pop culture zeitgeist moved on from testosterone-driven dude rock that ruled the '90s. Incubus and Linkin Park, two titans of the post-grunge era, never got the memo. Last night, fans witnessed two examples of bands that survived the indie rock takeover and are still in top form. The two bands contrasted heavily in their deliveries: Incubus was a coaxing lover, while Linkin Park was the jilted boyfriend who's gonna burn your house down.
Exhibit A: Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd. He slithered and moaned through the band's vast catalog, singing "Nice to Know You" and pleading with the audience between songs, "If you have a heart, help me sing tonight." His shirt came off a few minutes later. The animations on the massive projection screen at the back of the stage, by now an arena rock standard, played vaguely political vids. During "Megalomaniac," images of a Hitler collage were mashed together with some businessman figures with eagle's heads. It looked like an illustrated version of a freshman philosophy student's term paper. But, hey, the crowd seemed to love it.
This was not a night for cynicism. Boyd, perhaps one of the best rock singers of recent memory, oozed sincerity throughout every line of every tune. Except, weirdly enough, the band's biggest hit. "This is the feel-good song... of twelve years ago," Boyd says before launching into "Drive," the 1999 hit that is probably still paying Incubus's bills. You can hardly blame the band; if they've played this song half as many times as even casual radio listeners have heard it, it's no wonder they'd feel less than stoked.
That was the exception, though. "Circles," "If Not Now, When?" and "Kiss to Send Us Off" sounded like desperate, howling pleas, as if this was Incubus's last show of their career. Boyd cooed between songs, "I love the sound of your voices." Is this guy for real? Does he want to make out with us? This suspicion was helped along by the fact that the band, mid-song, broke into a cover of Lionel Richie's mega-superhit "Hello." The ambient noise of the crowd might have muffled the sound of a thousand panties dropping. And then the candelabra came out. Boyd and guitarist Mike Einziger lit some candles, moved a piano into place, poured a glass of red wine and launched into newish track "Promises, Promises."
Linkin Park's tack, by comparison, was a punch in the gut to anyone still lathered up from Incubus. Theirs was a rock set with a capital R. When those guys came out, surrounded by drum risers and catwalk-type ramps, the fist pumping began and "Faint," with its familiar line, "I won't be ignored" came blasting through the amps. This is some of the most nihilistic pop music around. It's the soundtrack you hear in a war film, when Humvees go barreling into some desolate desert landscape. It's full-on and breathless, and, no, it won't be ignored.
Singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda co-front the group, blending rap and elements of slowed down metal. Their set, like Incubus's, was flawlessly executed. They played "Papercut," "Given Up," "With You" and "Somewhere I Belong" with the vigor of a gym rat on go-go juice. The word "dynamics" was not in the band's vocabulary last night. Linkin Park played new song "Victimized," another nihilistic jam. Strange how a band that has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and are millionaires many times over could still be so pissed off.
Meanwhile, the adrenaline-crazed hits kept blasting out the speakers. "The Catalyst" was followed by "One Step Closer," during which giant flames shot up from the stage. Ten rows back, the heat was still intense. The show wound down, and Linkin Park reemerged for the obligatory encore, playing "Burn it Down" and a couple more tunes before wrapping it up for the evening.
Personal Bias: I'd always kind of enjoyed the absurdity of Linkin Park lyrics. They read like an adolescent goth girl's dream diary.
Random Note: Linkin Park's light show featured so many strobes, the gig should've come with a warning for those prone to seizures.
By the Way: Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson wore massive, glittery headphones during the whole show. Granted, it's loud on stage. But why the glitter?