Linkin Park at The Woodlands, 9/5/2014
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Linkin Park Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 5, 2014
It's kind of weird that Linkin Park find themselves more than 15 years and six albums deep into their career still headlining a venue like the Pavilion. If you were a rock band that had someone in your band doing anything even close to rapping in the early '00s and are still together now, the odds are good that you're playing Clear Lake rather than Houston or The Woodlands.
Honestly, Linkin Park's success post-2007 has always seemed to be a bit of a mystery. When was the last time you talked to someone who said Linkin Park was his or her favorite band? And yet, they've continued to put out albums and tour big venues, all while being seemingly marginalized in the world of modern music. When you think "biggest bands in rock," a lot of other bands probably come to mind before Linkin Park.
So while it may not be the primary reason, a lot of their continued success and goodwill probably has to do with the fact that they know how to put on a killer show, with a refreshing lack of pomp and circumstance.
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That's not to say there's something wrong with spectacle, but many times performers at a certain level of success sacrifice what brought everyone to the show in the first place -- the music -- in an effort to show just how cool they are. Do the math and you find out that if you cut out the overlong intros, the unnecessary banter, the rock-star heroics, etc. etc., you could probably jam another three songs into most headlining sets.
Linkin Park show up, get to work and, with the exception of taking some time to talk about how grateful they are for the fans and shout out some veterans in the audience, stick to jamming as much music in to their set as possible.
While in the broad sense the set is very much a hits-on-parade production, the presentation is more like a live mixtape than a greatest-hits package. Some songs get their full treatment; others show up for a verse and a hook; others get mashed up with similar-sounding tracks. It's a nice way to attack a career, because no matter what facet of Linkin Park you like the most, odds are the band touch on it live.
You get the big early hits like "In The End" and "One Step Closer," their big ballads in a "Leave Out All the Rest"/"Shadow of the Day"/"Iridescent" mashup, their more electronic side in the "Castle of Glass" remix, the harder songs off new album The Hunting Party and those songs from the Transformers movies. There was even a bit of Fort Minor on display with "Remember the Name."
The production on this tour is slick, with lots of up-close looks on how exactly all the sounds onstage are being produced; there are lots of cuts to finger-drumming and touchscreen interfaces. Even though they're a band with a DJ and another guy with production equipment onstage, it's refreshing to see a band that does the work to trigger as much of the music taking place themselves rather than hitting play on a computer. (Music-tech geeks rejoice.)
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Seeing them live, you learn that while there is absolutely a Linkin Park Sound, somehow they've managed to build a catalog that doesn't sound like the same song played over 27 variations; perhaps that versatility is what's kept the fans coming out to see them. In a way, the band has grown along with their audiences, and while there is a certainly a nostalgic love that comes with hearing the old stuff, people seemed pretty stoked for the new songs too.
Or maybe people just enjoy seeming people like themselves up on stage from time to time. Linkin Park don't loom larger than life on stage; sure, Chester Bennington moves around a whole lot like Scott Weiland at times, but who among us wouldn't show off our best rock-star moves in front of thousands?
Truth be told, the world of big-time mainstream rock could use a few more bands interested in putting on good shows rather than showing off how cool they are.
Personal Bias: I was one of the 50,000 people who bought Hybrid Theory the week it came out way back in the mists of time. While I was happy to hear a lot of those songs live for the first time in roughly forever, I was disappointed by the lack of "A Place For My Head."
The Crowd: All shapes, all sizes, all levels of sobriety.
Overheard in the Crowd: "That's Jared Leto. Take a picture."
So, How Was The Opener: Here's the TL;DR version of my thoughts on 30 Seconds to Mars: watching Jared Leto live out his teenage rock fantasy onstage is exhausting, but made for a nice contrast with the headliner that made me appreciate Linkin Park more than I might have. As for the other opener, "Traffic on I-45 North," I found them to be slow and often frustrating, but at least a passing thunderstorm meant there was a good light show.
Random Notebook Dump: I was #blessed to have a father who loved rock music and who encouraged my love of rock music. Growing up, we spent a lot of nights driving back from loud rock shows. For the past year he's been trying to convince me that Linkin Park is in fact still a pretty decent band, which has been an assertion I've laughed off more than once. While I'm happy that seeing them live proved that he's been right all along, I'm happier that I finally got to return the favor and take him to a see a band I knew he was excited to see.
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