“So I have tickets to Linkin Park. You wanna go?”
I’m ashamed to admit that I played it very cool in answering this question. Too cool.
So what if my obsession with Linkin Park died a painful death in 2004 after the effects of ‘Meteora’ wore off?
After a few good minutes of umming and ahhhing I relented. Holy mother of Hybrid Theory I’m so glad that I did.
Arriving at The Cape Town Stadium amidst the raging South Easter – and flashing lights of the paramedics that had been called to the scene after that Lucozade tower collapsed on 20 people – the mood is tetchy and tense. That normal pre-concert buzz is completely absent. Most people are scurrying around trying to make their way inside as quickly as they can.
Inside, the mood is no different mainly because the queues to buy booze are, once again, ridiculous. Kongos deliver a solid performance that’s highlighted by Jack Parow’s appearance. The stadium roars and the stands shudder in applause. Like last year at Kings Of Leon when he guested on ‘Die Vraagstuk’ during Die Heuwels Fantasties set, Parow can do no wrong.
After 1 ciggie and 1 glass of wine (I wish I was kidding here but you try lighting up or holding two plastics cups in gale-force wind) LP’s techies have finished screwing around onstage and the 6-piece kick into ‘Faint’ – arguably the best track off “Meteroa” or at least the track with the best intro.
The construction of their set list is flawless. It makes me realise how ancient this band actually is, but also, how many goddam hits they have under their belt.
From a performance perspective, Chester *lick* Bennington and Mike Shinoda don’t interact with each other. It’s strange. It’s like they’re playing two completely separate gigs. But it works because their lyrical styles are jarringly juxtaposing and the subtle competitive edge is alluring. Brad Delson (lead guitar) and Dave Farrell (bass) jump on and off raised platforms that break the onstage aesthetic and it gels superbly while Chester and Shinoda work each sides of the stage and crowd simultaneously.
As Delson supplies the opening riff of ‘Given Up’ and Rob Bourdon breaks into a cacophony of violent drum lines, it’s the first time that the crowd really come alive. And as Chester brutally screams, “PUT ME OUT OF MY FUCKING MISERYYYYY” I get my first goose bump moment. They follow with ‘New Divide’ and I can’t help but think that we’re just not worthy. Spoilt Capetonian brats complaining about this band being 10 years too late – go fuck yourself and listen to some Dashboard Confessional.
Shinoda uses his trademark flashy smile to ask the audience, by a show of fists in the air, who has their new album. I lie. I also have no intention of ever righting this wrong. The subsequent double play off “Living Things” – ‘In My Remains’ and ‘Victimized’ – changes my mind. I later download a copy.
En cue ‘Points of Authority’, ‘Waiting For The End’ and ‘Breaking the Habit’ and I realise I’ve been unashamedly shrieking at the top of my lungs. Even the dudes next to me that have travelled down from Boksburg look scared.
The set is broken in half by a gorgeous 3-song medley of the slower ‘Leave Out All the Rest’, ‘Shadow of the Day’ and ‘Iridescent’ respectively and it’s a real treat hearing Shinoda behind his keyboard, pulling back. A few songs later, he sits down again and he teases us with an extended intro of ‘What I’ve Done’. And people go BOS. There’re some gorgeous negative-effected visuals being shown on the screens that flank the stage, but the quality of the screens are shit and so the intended feel of said visuals are lost and just looks like a blurry mess.
After ‘One Step Closer’ they’re done and Chester, Shinoda and co. say goodbye only to return 10 minutes later for encores ‘Burn It Down’, ‘In the End’ (my favourite LP song from “Hybrid Theory”) and ‘Bleed It Out’. Here we go for the 100th time, bitches. By this time I’ve moved from hanging over the barrier right in front to a place more conducive to “losing my shit”, when LP throw in a bridge from Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’. It’s a special moment when Chester channels Adam Yauch.
And then it’s over. Chester and Shinoda throw their arms around each other’s shoulders and take a short bow – the most contact they’ve had all evening save for a snarky comment they exchanged after Chester forgot a lyric.
Post-gig I stand by my tweet: if I had enough rand, I’d fly up to Joburg this Saturday and do it all over again. Linkin Park are that good. So the next time you want to label a touring international band as “washed up” and “not relevant” remember, most of them achieved worldwide critical acclaim and are still selling out stadiums for a very simple reason – they are still top of their game.