"Everything we're doing right now is way different." What happened the day Linkin Park played a set at Grand Central Station

Linkin Park performing at Grand Central Station in 2017
(Image credit: Train Of Thought NYC via Youtube)

We’ve all spotted the odd busker on our daily commute. Regardless of how talented the slick young guitarist or the suave saxophonist may be, the fleeting performance is rarely enough to suspend the hectic rush hour bustle. You may pay more attention if that busker were Chester bloody Bennington, though.

This is exactly what Manhattan commuters encountered back on May 16, 2017. Amidst the usual to-and-fro of Grand Central Station, there was a strange standstill on a certain platform. The mystery would quickly be answered while inspecting the platform departures board: above the usual list of train times, a massive banner was hoisted up, simply bearing the words ‘LINKIN PARK’.

Organised as part of Good Morning America’s ‘Pop-Up’ week, the impromptu performance placed the chart-topping nu metal superstars slap-bang in the centre of New York’s busiest train station – and fans were stunned. ABC News interviewed members of the packed crowd who caught the set on their commute home from work, one fan barely unable to finish a sentence, struggling through a flood of tears and saying, “[Chester’s] voice is just ... I can’t believe it ... my favourite band ever.”

Linkin Park arrived in suitable fashion: stepping off of a subway train. As they march out, unwitting commuters simply glide past, ogling their phones. But the fans who had caught wind of the performance greeted them with a wave of eager cheers, and the band are equally as excited. Chester is grinning as he gets behind his mic, pointing out certain onlookers he recognises with a huge, appreciative smile. 

Due to the cramped nature of the ‘venue’, the setup is pretty stripped back. As Mike Shinoda laughs in one video, “Everything we’re doing right now… is way different.” But they clearly delight in the challenge, the gang ploughing through the show like pros. The performance would serve up a small but strong selection of tracks from across their catalogue, like Crawling, What I’ve Done and Heavy from the then-unreleased One More Light.

Climactic closer In The End fully encapsulates the magic of this never-before-never-again experience. Before the band even start, Mike has an important request: “Will you guys rap for us?” Upon hearing the resounding howls of approval, he is content to begin tapping away at his keyboard – and the hordes quickly make good on their promise. 

Though Chester chimes in with the odd backing croon, the fans take the reins, eagerly yelling along to every word of the iconic track. Throughout, Mike is grinning from ear to ear, his eyes glowing like a child on Christmas.

Despite the performance being a moment of immense joy for the fans, in hindsight, it feels bittersweet. While there is an overwhelming level of love in the room, Chester would go on to take his life just two months after. He remains reserved while performing, but, interacting with his fans, that’s when his face lights up. 

Following his passing, footage like this has become a memorial of Chester’s passion for his craft, plus his penchant for prizing his supporters above all else. Up to the end, he was treating those who loved Linkin Park with once-in-a-lifetime spectacles.

Emily Swingle

Full-time freelancer, part-time music festival gremlin, Emily first cut her journalistic teeth when she

co-founded Bittersweet Press in 2019. After asserting herself as a home-grown, emo-loving, nu-metal

apologist, Clash Magazine would eventually invite Emily to join their Editorial team in 2022. In the

following year, she would pen her first piece for Metal Hammer - unfortunately for the team, Emily

has since become a regular fixture. When she’s not blasting metal for Hammer, she also scribbles for

Rock Sound, Why Now and Guitar and more.