By Ben Hansen
Special to Hard News Cafe
SALT LAKE CITY — Energy Solutions Arena was illuminated brilliantly Friday night by Linkin Park, currently on tour to promote their new concept album A Thousand Suns. Lead Singer Chester Bennington, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Mike Shinoda, keyboardist/turntable master Joe Hahn, lead guitarist Brad Delson, bassist David Farrell, and drummer Rob Bourdon decided to expound on their musical expressions in a new direction, stripping down complex songs to their more basic elements to provide an interestingly raw yet processed sound.
The new album has received many varying reviews, with those who “get” what Linkin Park is trying to offer being captivated by the new direction that the band has taken for this album.
The show kicked off with the house lights out, and the introduction The Requiem providing a soft yet intensifying backdrop for the events to come. Audience members could see the band members making their way through the shadows to the stage, and as the lights began to shine down, it was full speed ahead into Faint and Lying From You from the album Meteora, followed by Given Up and What I’ve Done from the album Minutes to Midnight.
Chester Bennington blended his personal abrasive and melodious combination over visceral lyrics with Mike Shinoda’s empowering rapping and harmonizing vocals. Their distinctive hybrid blend continued to provide a literal one-two punch, as they were able to effectively divide the stage and crowd, providing a more interactive experience with the audience throughout the evening. Mike rapped with passion, waiving his hands wildly and aggressively as rhymes sprung out. Chester flailed and contorted about the stage while lashing out in what was almost primal scream therapy that invigorated the audience.
Chester’s bravado was in full swing during the songs Blackout and the final encore One Step Closer as he jumped from platform to platform on the stage, letting out yells of immense proportion to each section of the audience over lyrics such as “You’ll never get it inside, push it back down,” and, “Shut up when I’m talking to you!” Drums were added to his repertoire for this tour, and he made quick use of them, beating out tribal beats during Blackout and When They Come for Me that were full of emotion.
Mike was as animated and interactive as ever, and seemed to gather more steam from each audience member’s interaction. At one point during the set, Shinoda had security raise him into the general admission pit of the crowd, where he reveled in having eager audience members clutching for his microphone as they sang along to the song In the End.
The night was chock full of fist-pumping adrenalized moments, but it was not void of calming points. During the songs Iridescent, Shadow of the Day, and Waiting for the End, many fans lifted their Zippos (albeit via the screen on their smart phones) in unison to the quiet reverence that overwhelmed the crowd.
When a band of this magnitude can play an entire set without resorting to some of their mega-hits and the audience still leaves happy, they have truly accomplished something special. While two of the band’s biggest hits, Crawling and Breaking the Habit were noticeably absent, the night still seemed full, with all twenty-three of the songs performed feeling like they had a valid place in the flow of the evening. The set list combed through all of the band’s prior efforts with balance, giving focus to every era of their catalog without overshadowing any particular album. While playing a good selection of songs from the new album including The Radiance and The Catalyst, the band also pulled out random songs like New Divide from the Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen, From the Inside and Numb from Meteora, and Papercut from Hybrid Theory.
Musical experimentation has never impeded Linkin Park’s ability to communicate with their fans and acquire new ones. A band either evolves or dies, and Linkin Park is very much alive and well. Whether one is a fan of the new album or not, the band once again provided a live experience that would have left even their detractors clamoring for more.