Best of Both Worlds


He was here to say that he was sorry, and his voice flickered right along with all the lighters held aloft before him.

"Let me apologize for what I'm about to say," Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington sang during the tremulous ballad "In Between" Thursday night at The Joint. "But trying to be genuine was harder than it seemed."

And Bennington should know: After coming to fame at the height of the nü metal boom earlier this decade, Linkin Park is a band in transition, one of the last vestiges of a scene that, like a drunken dalliance with some cross-eyed lover, they couldn't distance themselves from fast enough.

The band used to be the Kix of rap-rock: kid tested, mother approved.

On their massive selling debut, "Hybrid Theory," they made a point of not swearing in a genre where the tongues have traditionally been as sharp as steak knives.

But nowadays, the band's records come with parental advisory stickers and they throb with a more broad-minded musical acumen that sees this bunch seemingly trying to establish themselves as the U2 for dudes with neck tattoos.

On the band's latest disc, the brooding, searching "Minutes to Midnight," Linkin Park further tones down the hip-hop elements -- MC Mike Shinoda only raps on a couple of tunes -- experimenting more with electronics and texture, restraint and resolve.

At The Joint, the band blended its early, signature hits ("Crawling," "One Step Closer"), which combusted like paper on fire, with some moodier, more reflective tunes that aimed to stimulate tear ducts as much as sweat glands.

Of course, injecting a bit of pause into a Linkin Park gig is kind of like trying to hold a wine tasting in the middle of a rugby scrum.

The band is ceaselessly kinetic: Bennington bounces around the stage like his legs were corked with bedsprings, and everyone save the drummer took turns performing from atop a series of risers at the front of the stage, waving their instruments in the air like battle flags.

And so when the band delved into a more contemplative three-song suite midway through the show, ranging from the muted piano ballad "In Pieces" to the spare, elegiac "My December," attention spans waned and the line at the bar grew.

But when the crowd turns restless, it only works to this band's benefit: They make their living releasing pent-up energy in grand, exultant fashion, turning well-worn, self-directed diatribes ("I get lost in the nothingness inside me"; "I don't know how I got this way, I know it's not right") into party-hard group therapy sessions fueled by Budweiser and betrayal.

And so all was right again when Linkin Park tore back into the cinder-block-heavy "Bleed It Out" -- one of the newer songs where Shinoda heats up the mic -- or fan favorite "In the End," where the crowd's singing drowned out the band, and for a moment, the lungs in the house were just as raw as the emotions.

Similarly overheated -- albeit to a different end -- the band that preceded Linkin Park onstage, Coheed and Cambria, are skilled at making prog rock something that drunk chicks can dance to -- a noble aim, to be sure.

Their frontman, sci-fi lovin' hair farmer Claudio Sanchez, plays guitar with his teeth and sings about parallel universes. He begins most tunes hunched over his instrument, bent at the knees, and ends them with a fist in the air.

At The Joint, the band flexed its considerable chops with acrobatic bass lines, a jackhammer for a drummer and guitars that squealed like rubber on wet asphalt.

They often get compared to Rush, though there's one crucial difference between Coheed and that mighty Canadian power trio: The former actually attracts real live girls to their shows.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0476.

 

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