Rock giants Linkin Park brought nothing short of a spectacle to a sold-out O2 Arena, in support of their sixth studio album, The Hunting Party, which features some of the band’s finest work to date. With an expert balance of old and new material, relentless energy, and stunning visual effects, the California sextet delivered an exemplary performance that demonstrated precisely how arena-sized rock should be done.
Support act Of Mice and Men began assertively with bold opening track ‘Public Service Announcement’, from their most recent album Restoring Force. Despite the brevity of their set, the band’s performance was hard-hitting and tireless, and certainly deserving of an arena stage. Clearly, Of Mice and Men are well on their way to bigger things, and in a few years’ time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Orange County quintet headlining arenas themselves.
Amid much anticipation, Linkin Park exploded onto the stage with gutsy single ‘Guilty All The Same’, commandeering the O2 with their immediate energy and fierce intensity. Without even the slightest pause, the sextet thundered into the punk-driven ‘Given Up’, which saw stunning, unflagging vocals from frontman Chester Bennington, whose bandmates were on equally top form. Alongside Bennington, co-frontman Mike Shinoda moved fluidly between his various instruments and vocal duties, delivering his lines with conviction and fervency, particularly in Meteora favourite ‘Faint’, which featured a guest appearance from Of Mice and Men vocalist Austin Carlile, and saw the entirety of the arena on their feet. Drummer Rob Bourdon’s performance was unwavering and ferocious throughout the band’s set, giving tracks like ‘Rebellion’, with its wonderfully gnarly riff, a staggeringly powerful amplification, allowing it to fill a space that extended far beyond the O2.
Given that Linkin Park have developed considerably from their nu-metal beginnings, there was always the risk that their older material might have sounded tired and dated against their newer releases; yet, this wasn’t the case at all. Hybrid Theory’s ‘With You’ and ‘One Step Closer’ sounded as fresh and as energetic as the band’s recent material, successfully sending the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy, invigorated by the sextet’s infectious zeal and stamina. Fan-favourites ‘In The End’ and ‘Numb’ were particular highlights, instigating full arena sing-alongs loud enough to raise the roof, a testament to the band’s status.
Whilst experience may render the live shows of some bands unexciting and predictable, this was not true for Linkin Park, who themselves have been around for over 15 years. What made their sold-out O2 date so remarkable was their seamless and skilful blending of old with new, of one style with another – something that could only be done so expertly with years of experience. This made for a performance that was complex and innovative, with different layers and textures woven intricately together to produce something refreshing and consistently unpredictable, much like the band themselves. The introduction of A Thousand Suns’ ‘Blackout’, for instance, lead into a shortened, pithy version of Hybrid Theory single ‘Papercut’, before turning unexpectedly and almost imperceptibly, into ‘Rebellion’. Co-frontman Mike Shinoda delivered the first verse of The Hunting Party’s ‘Wastelands’ easily over the instrumental of Hybrid Theory’s ‘Runaway’, with a smoothness and surety that demonstrated his refined skill. Even a condensed piano rendition of ‘Shadow of the Day’ built to an immense crescendo in the form of ‘Iridescent’. And, with the Recharged version of ‘Castle of Glass’, the band turned the O2 into a full on electro rave, with lighting displays and visual effects galore; a feat that very few rock bands could successfully accomplish without it seeming terribly out of place. Yet for Linkin Park, a band that transcends genre in a live setting as well as a studio one, it worked.
Throughout the entire night, the sextet oozed confidence, and performed with a contagious fervour that set the arena alight. Closing with an extended version of Minutes To Midnight’s ‘Bleed It Out’, featuring an admirable and dynamic drum solo from Rob Bourdon, the band finished as strongly as they began, never once faltering, or allowing the O2 to slip from their powerful grasp for even a second. With this arena performance, Linkin Park proved that not only are they, quite simply, an excellent live band, but that they also remain one of the most exciting, inventive and original bands of today, and are certainly, still ones to watch.