Linkin Park rocked the Arena of SM Mall of Asia on Aug. 13 as part of its “Living Things” world tour. After almost a decade since its first concert in the country, thousands of faithful fans gathered for the Grammy-winning American rock band. Video by Ryan Leagogo/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines – “Let it go.”
A symphony of ten thousand voices from Filipino fans echoed loudly inside the Mall of Asia Arena Tuesday night chanting these words, as the premier American rap rock band Linkin Park returned to Philippine stage for the second time.
Leading the communal chanting was Chester Bennington, the band’s frontman, singing the chorus to their single “Iridescent,” off their 2010 album “A Thousand Suns.”
“That was beautiful. Thank you very much,” Bennington hushed over the microphone, visibly moved.
Local alternative rock heroes Urbandub started the evening with pumped-up renditions of their hit songs “Gravity,” “Soul-Searching,“ and the bittersweet “First of Summer.”
“Our song plays on the radio,” Urbandub vocalist Gabby Alipe repeatedly sang between verses. Guitarist John Dinopol banged his curly locks along to the stomping rhythm built by Lalay Lim and Jan Mendoza, bassist and drummer respectively.
Children towed by their fathers were now beginning to occupy the seats on the Lower Box area. By 9:30 p.m., the venue was filled with young spectators, most of whom were donning the obligatory black shirts. They were sweating despite the heavy air-conditioning. Most were trying not to look bored while waiting. Over the PA, various hip-hop and electronic tracks were played. Between lulls, the audience hooted in anticipation.
Nevertheless, the sound check lasted for almost an hour. Linkin Park must have hired a crew of more than 30 people just to prepare their elaborate set.
DJ Joe Hahn, turntablist, went to the stage first. He proceeded to tinker with his samples. A large projector behind the stage displayed his silhouette. The remaining band members followed, and the camera captured their liquid-like images onscreen, clearly the workings of Hahn himself, a former art student.
Without letting up, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave Farrell, and drummer Rob Bourdon launched into a brontosaurus metal groove, uncannily sounding like Pantera’s “Becoming.” Any metalhead recognizes that riff. Surprisingly, the song morphed into “A Place for My Head,” one of Linkin Park’s most notable songs from the album “Hybrid Theory.” Mike Shinoda, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist, sang the rap sections of the song and Bennington lent his angry wails and screams into that auditory mix.
Shinoda and Bennington complemented each other’s parts, a style that defined the early Linkin Park catalog through the strength of its first two albums, 2000’s “Hybrid Theory” and 2003’s “Meteora.” As such, the crowd chanted along to every song with unbridled fervor: “Papercut,” “In the End,” “Somewhere I Belong,” “Breaking the Habit,” and “Numb.”
However, the albums “Minutes to Midnight,” “A Thousand Suns,“ and “Living Things” saw the band in a different direction. The band that played in the MOA Arena offered a more diverse sound than before – synthesizers and samples became more prominent, and elements of disco were deliberately experimented on. Still, tracks like “Bleed it Out,” “New Divide,” “With You,” and “Leave out All the Rest” gain traction among diehard fans. Instead of being pigeonholed as a straight rap rock band and major purveyors of “nu metal,” the band had a rebirthed sound which incorporated new influences ranging from 30 Seconds to Mars to Muse. Just as well, the Filipino audiences were stoked with these changes.
Further, during the performance, two large screens on both sides of the stage flashed a smorgasbord of images such as skulls and bones, fangs and flowers, or winged soldiers charging in battle while bearing a flag (the same image which adored the cover of the album “Hybrid Theory”), visuals not unlike those that come from the weird and wonderful mind of Neil Gaiman or any music video from the alt-metal behemoths Tool.
Midway through the set, Shinoda played on the keyboard the opening chords of “Iridescent.” He and Bennington played a stripped-down, slower version of the song – more gentle and vulnerable, a departure from the original track. The song increased in intensity until the entire band joined in. All at once, a wave of light washed over the entire arena – pinprick white lights from cellular phones being waved by the crowd punctured the surrounding darkness. Whereas during the 1990s we raise our lighters and candles to express our solidarity, this generation now has smartphones.
“Let it go,” Bennington wailed. The voices of ten thousand Filipino fans soared with him that night. They followed his lead. There was something about that moment – visually and aurally – that gave one the chills. The tattooed frontman seemed to be baring himself, urging those who listen to him to understand things, to take the risk, to accept, and hopefully, to learn from the experience. As if saying, as the poet Stephen Dunn had, “I’ve had it with all stingy-hearted sons of bitches. A heart is to be spent.”
He was the voice of a generation. And that generation was mine.