Linkin Park touched down in Manila from Hong Kong last Tuesday at around 7:55 p.m., giving the American rock-metal band just about an hour to get ready before taking the stage at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, where hordes of fans, young and old, had gathered.
Local band Urbandub, the front act, did a great job psyching up the crowd with a feverish set, which the group punctuated with “First of Summer.”
“Linkin Park’s coming up next. Make some noise!” vocalist Gabby Alipe shouted soon enough, rousing an eruption of cheers and raised fists.
It would take Linkin Park’s team some 30 minutes to set up. To kill time, many in the audience busied themselves, tinkering with gadgets and snapping photos with friends. A few others shrieked at the smallest things happening onstage, as when the humongous LED screen backdrop came to life for a split second.
Finally, the white stadium lights went off and then were replaced by slow, flashing blue lights that flanked the stage. Onscreen appeared hazy, 3D ultrasound-like images of turntablist Joe Hahn, and drummer Rob Bourdon pounding the skins in a steady, measured cadence, while a foreboding, swirling drone blared from the speakers.
After Bourdon gave the drums a final whack in that sweet little intro, vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda emerged from either side of the stage and promptly launched into the rip-roaring “A Place for My Head”—a track from their debut studio album “Hybrid Theory” (2000).
Shinoda, in a printed white shirt, hopped onto a box in front and continued unleashing the song’s first salvo of rap verses. All the while, Bennington darted back and forth across the stage, growling and screaming his head off. If there were any doubts about their energy level, having just disembarked from a private jet, Linkin Park—Bennington, Shinoda, Bourdon, Hahn, Brad Delson (guitar) and Dave Farrell (bass)—wiped them out within those first few minutes.
Over the edge
Before the stoked fans could gather themselves together, Shinoda doused those nearest the stage with water before soldiering to “Papercut,” one of the band’s hits that helped cement its place on the mainstream map back in 2001— when poppogi boy bands started losing steam before at last fading into obscurity.
Even the muffled and muddy-sounding microphones early on didn’t stop Linkin Park from sending everyone over the edge. “It’s great to be back here!” screamed Bennington, who first visited Manila in 2004 for the band’s “Meteora” world tour.
A lot of the 24 songs on the set list were culled from the band’s first two albums, “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora” (2003). Performing hits like “With You,” “Points of Authority,” “Somewhere I Belong,” “Numb” “Lying From You” and “Faint,” Linkin Park made many fans a tad nostalgic, especially those who spent their angst-ridden teenaged years in the early 2000s.
There was no breathing room between numbers. With Bennington wailing like a man possessed every so often, and the multi-tasking Shinoda rapping and bouncing from one instrument to another, one couldn’t help wondering where these two get the endurance to sustain the intensity for more than two hours. Before the crowd could stop applauding and cheering after a song, the band would be starting its next. Thus, “Given Up,” “New Divide,” “Lies, Greed, Misery,” “What I’ve Done” sounded like they were cleverly strung together.
The concert (mounted by Scala Events) was a sonic grind fest through and through, save for the hauntingly affecting medley of “Leave Out All the Rest,” “Shadow of the Day” and “Iridescent,” which bared Bennington’s earnest, softer side, as well as the band’s knack for creating surprisingly gorgeous melodies.
Meanwhile, the electronic-laden and pulsating synth-pop beats of such songs as “Lost in Echo” and the almost danceable “Burn It Down”—both from the band’s latest album “Living Things” (2012)—highlighted the extent to which Linkin Park’s sound had evolved since its “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora” days.
More than an aural assault, the show was a visual treat as well. All the random, trippy imagery on the LED screen and the manic flashing of stage lights heightened the experience, and spurred a head rush unlike any other. But just when the fans thought the show couldn’t get any better, Shinoda jumped off the stage, rushed to the crowd and high-fived everyone within his reach amid the deafening sing-along that “In The End” elicited.
Bennington did the same in their final song “One Step Closer,” prompting fans to rush toward the singer to get a better view. Standing on the barricade, Bennington leaned close to the fans and let out a scream that threatened to shatter the eardrums of those around him. Even so, that’s what made us pretty sure that, for the fans who paid P10,000 each to ensure such electric proximity, it was well worth it.