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Linkin Park, live in London

Support: Of Mice & Men

The biggest of the big boys of 21st century rock were in town for two nights at London's mammoth O2 Arena this week. Can you learn anything new about a band this familiar? We were always gonna try GODDAMN IT!

It Was Always Gonna Be Tough For Of Mice & Men, But They Pull It Out The Bag

It’s not sold out tonight, and the doors have only been open for half an hour, but there’s still a hell of a lot of people present to watch Of Mice & Men open up tonight’s show in an impressive way. It’s a thankless task when you’re a support band on an arena tour, but the confidence in which OM&M go about it makes it clear that this is a challenge the Orange County metallers relish. Austin Carlile struts around the stage screaming his guts up as opener Public Service Announcement jolts the early comers out of their comfort zone. It’s slightly muted to start with, but slowly and surely you see the pumping fists begin to spread and the decibels of approval rise with each passing song. By the time they finish with You’re Not Alone it can only be considered a job well done. Especially when you hear the cheer that greets Austin and guitarist Aaron Pauley when they join Linkin Park onstage later that evening. And with a crowd as… Umm… Eclectic as Linkin Park’s that has be a hugely satisfying result.

Linkin Park Can Still Rock When The Mood Takes Them

How you feel about Linkin Park and the audience they command will depend on whether you’re a cup half empty or half full kind of person. There are plenty of admirable elements onstage; the lights and stage production is breathtaking, with cages unleashing the six members before doubling up as video screens that project all manner of spectacular images across the O2. Also the band start the set with the bit between their teeth, beginning with two of their heaviest songs, in Guilty All The Same and_ Given Up_, before running through three of their back catalogue’s stone cold classics from Hybrid Theory. Hearing Points Of Authority into One Step Closer into Papercut, surely the best song they ever recorded, set the bar way, way up high. Even after fifteen years Chester Bennington’s voice is still a shockingly potent instrument, a versatile set of pipes he no doubt has but for the first twenty minutes of the set he spends the majority of his time bent doubled and screaming like he’s having his pancreas removed without anaesthetic. And what a wail it is. He could easily fit into a death metal outfit if the mood took him. With all the talk of latest album_ The Hunting Party_ returning to the band’s heavy roots, and with a hyper-aggressive opening like this, you start to wonder if Linkin Park are to commit commercial suicide and bludgeon the casual, latter day fans they’ve collected into a noisy death.

** They Are Much Better At Making Rock Music Than They Are At Reggae**

It couldn’t carry on like that could it? No, of course not. Because in a lot of ways Linkin Park are the nu-metal generation’s Bon Jovi; that they can write a mean chorus and start a party is never in doubt, but they don’t have the critical clout of their peers, they are considered “Johnny-come-latelies” to a scene that was already well established, before turning their back on it to court the attention of a more mainstream and ‘serious’ music fan. And those people have to be sated. The problem with that is that Linkin Park aren’t really very good at anything apart from catchy, guitar-driven, bouncy rock songs. When they dip their toes into electronica, as on DJ Joseph Hahn’s scratching solo, it’s aiming for The Prodigy but more like a bloke dropping some synths down a well. Mike Shinoda is a clever and talented musician but his rapping is less Jay-Z, more John Barnes and coupled with his “wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care” gestures resembling a drowning pensioner with a dislocated shoulder he often comes across as a bit like an embarrassing uncle, drunk at a wedding. Waiting For The End has the most disagreeable attempt at reggae since Mike Read went political. And the nadir is reached with Iridescent, a ballad so cheesy that it’s like hearing Celine Dion and Whitney Houston drowning in a vat of Brie.

This Is A Band In The Midst Of Re-evaluating Their Sound

The band do start to redeem themselves towards the end by playing some more of their big hits like Numb, In The End and What I’ve Done, but they never go back to recapturing the feeling of that fizzy, giddy, full-throttle opening. Which is a shame. Because there is a rock heart beating inside of the band. But it appears to only be allowed out for a limited time. Whether this is due to a fear of straying too far from their fanbase or a slow but gradual climb back into our world we are yet to know. But there are encouraging signs here tonight, not least the presence of OM&M both as support and joining the band onstage at various points during their set, that Linkin Park are falling back in love with loud music.

Ultimately, Most People Here Don’t Care What Type Of A Band Linkin Park Are

Of course the crowd lap it up regardless of the style. They are less interested in genre politics and more interested in having a fun night out. But you wonder how many of them are aware that heavy metal even exists, let alone are fans of it. The range of people here are as wide a variety as you could ever see at any gig. From the teenage pop girl to the middle-aged old school rocker. Linkin Park have become to metal what Simply Red are to soul music. An incredibly popular band that have it’s roots in their own particular scene, have influenced and opened up many people to investigate further into music they may not have ever been exposed to without them, and have totally transcended the genre… Which could be argued as a good or a bad thing. It all depends on how full your cup is…

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Linkin Park Setlist

Guilty All The Same Given Up Points Of Authority One Step Closer Papercut Rebellion Runaway Wastelands Castle Of Glass Leave Out All the Rest / Shadow Of The Day / Iridescent Robot Boy Burn It Down Waiting For The End Final Masquerade Wretches And Kings / Remember The Name / Skin To Bone Numb In the End Faint Lost In The Echo New Divide Crawling Until It’s Gone What I’ve Done Bleed It Out

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.