Linkin Park, Paper Tongues Toyota Center March 3, 2011
More pics of the Linkin Park concert can be found in our slideshow.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
Rock writers cannot change what we see, but we can change how we see them. We can glean new ways to digest what we hear, or see live. It's a funny profession where you merely observe, because most of us suck at doing anything but listening to music and writing our thoughts.
Imagine having to have an opinion on everything you see. What if you had to write a review for every gas station and restroom you visited?
Linkin Park should be critic-proof, out of the regard for the almost universal derision that's been rampant since they debuted with 2000's Hybrid Theory. It's like telling someone that McDonald's is bad for them or that the Speedo is a bad idea, unless you are Michael Phelps.
No, the thing about LP is that they show flashes of brilliance amidst the muck and mire. True it is that we just watched a whole Toyota Center full of people chanting, fist-pumping (well, there's no other term for it), and waving cellphones.
Their Rick Rubin-produced albums, 2007's Minutes To Midnight and last year's A Thousand Suns, made even the most vicious detractor tilt their head like a puppy hearing a whistle, scratch their heads and say "hmmmm..." So that's what they needed, a genius producer who could strip away the extraneous fat to get to the songs.
But what you get left with live is a crowd still amped on the older stuff - the screaming, the rapping, the digital manipulations, the last gasps of the '90s nu-metal brigade. Lead singer Chester Bennington has a better voice than people give him credit for, and the band knows how to write an anthem, even if your allegiance isn't there.
Thursday's Toyota Center gig had been postponed for a few weeks due to an illness involved Bennington, and the Houston date would be the last date on this leg of touring behind Suns.
Young opener Paper Tongues (above) didn't veer off from the LP template, showing the same stage show as Bennington and company, but without the songs yet. Subtract the tone of LP utility man Mike Shinoda from the mix and add some glam-piano flavor and you have a younger LP. It just got grating, and no one needs to scream the word "peeps" in anger unless it's the night before Easter and Walmart runs out of marshmallow chicks.
LP's set centered on the more atmospheric tracks off their last three albums, the ones that they made curves directly off the sound that put them on modern-rock radio in 2001.
The gripe we have with the band is that when they strip down to guitars, bass, drums and vocals, they swing and they hit a sweet spot that we can approve. With added manipulation and turntable aggravation from their man Mr. Hahn, it gets groan-worthy. Even when the Deftones, a band they are more than heavily indebted to, utilize their electronic toys they find a way to humanize it.
There's a tinge of apocalyptic ruin in the band's recent work, colored by war, strife, anger, and modern living. On the band's first album that stuff didn't exist yet, not in a literal sense that it was on the news every night, so they had to manufacture it in terms of relationships and fetid teen angst.
The band deals better in reality on songs like "What I've Done", "When They Come For Me", and "Numb." There's a measure of Kilroy-era Styx running in their current that even we are ashamed to recognize.
Older songs like "Breaking The Habit" and "Faint" got the biggest and most aggressive reactions - we heard people were making out to the former - for songs that are almost ten years old. "One Step Closer" is always going to be personal chuckler, with a pissed pubes line like "Shut up when I am talking to you!"
The encore brought out what is probably their best song, and by "best song" we mean the one that we know all the words to, "Shadow of the Day". It's a showcase for how grown the band can be, partly the work of Rubin stripping them down, but also the band's realization that you sound relaxed and still be angry and bitter.
Personal Bias: To paraphrase a great Irish-American: "We choose to go to Linkin Park, not because it is easy, but because it is hard." That, and we are suckers for writing reviews late at night.
The Crowd: We've covered the last few Buzzfests, Nickelback, Creed, Insane Clown Posse, and grew up in Pearland. So this was nothing new.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Do you like St. Patrick's Day?" said the drunk girl to Aftermath in the aisle in front of us, 20 minutes before LP started. We were neither wearing green, sporting a red beard, nor were we holding a pot of gold. And we are not "wee". Jesus take the wheel.
Random Notebook Dump: Your digital camera flash makes no sense and doesn't add or detract from your photo-taking when you are in Section 9, 124, Row 77, Seat 45. But we thank you for adding ambiance to the evening.
The Requiem/Radiance Papercut Lying From You Given Up What I've Done Empty Spaces When They Come For Me No More Sorrow Jornada Del Muerto Waiting For The End Burning In The Skies Numb Breaking The Habit Fallout The Catalyst Crawling Faint One Step Closer
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Wisdom, Justice & Love Iridescent Shadow Of The Day New Divide In The End Bleed It Out