I'll be honest, Hybrid Theory said nothing to me about my life. When Linkin Park's debut album emerged in 2000, cementing nu-metal's position as the dominant commercial force within our world, it didn't soundtrack my first relationship, or my first break-up, or my gap year or graduation blow-outs. But looking around Donington Park at 9:15 this evening, one wonders whether holding a 90,000 capacity rock and metal festival in this country in 2014 would even be possible if not for Hybrid Theory.
The first 36 minutes of Linkin Park’s headline set this evening is met with a rapturous reception. From the moment Mike Shinoda bounces onstage in a bright red wig to introduce Papercut, a knowing reference to his appearance at the dawn of the century, the LA band reel back the years with a fiercely energetic set that sees every 20-something in the field revisiting their teenage rock club moves. Shinoda prefaces Crawling with an introduction about Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes’ first ever rock show being a Linkin Park concert on the UK leg of the Hybrid Theory tour, telling a hushed crowd that the next Oli Sykes or Pete Wentz might be in the crowd this evening, a sweet little motivational speech which chimes nicely with the feel-good mood of the day.
Hearing Hybrid Theory performed in its entirety for the very first time is a potent reminder of it’s precision-tooled power. Each of the album’s four singles - One Step Closer, Crawling, Papercut and In The End - is a flawless exercise in emotional manipulation, with not a wasted note in it’s slick transitions, each section ratcheting up the intensity levels. Truthfully, the likes of Forgotten and Cure For The Itch are pure filler, but this hardly matters: as with Thriller or Hysteria or any other multi-platinum phenomenon you might care to mention the perfection of the radio cuts render the rest of the album largely irrelevant.
The remaining two thirds of the sextet’s set is a more measured, less emotional and ultimately more subdued affair. The LA band are far too professional and self-aware to permit attention to ever wander too far from their standard crowd-pleasers - Numb, New Divide, What I’ve Done - but there are indulgences too, and the crowd noticeably thins as the set progresses. Ahead of the release of The Hunting Party, Guilty All The Same is a reminder that Linkin Park can dip back into riff-rock at will, but truthfully a return to such bullish simplicity would be a retrograde step for a band who have evolved and matured with considerable class and imagination.
The big question, however, is who’s out there to step up when this nostalgia loses its appeal?