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Linkin Park shows signs of progress at Hyundai

Any doubts fans have developed about Linkin Park losing edge over its polarizing "Minutes to Midnight" album were put to rest Saturday night at Hyundai Pavilion in Devore.

Eager to rid itself of any lingering "nь-metal" tag, the band enlisted super-producer Rick Rubin to help craft its third record, which not only sheds the rap-rock, it also delves into musical avenues previously untouched.

But for an outfit that has harvested a loyal fan base on the merits of highly explosive live outings, the question Linkin Park had to answer on the fourth date of its current Projekt Revolution tour was clear: Would these new, slower tunes rock on stage?

The answer was a resounding "yes," as the band went far beyond simply debuting new material to surprisingly freshen up some older songs, too.

Back in May at KROQ's Weenie Roast, Linkin Park opened with "One Step Closer," the song that put the L.A.-based quintet on the map. It was a subtle way of saying "Hey! Remember us? We've been on break."

This night Linkin Park instead seemed to say "Hey! We've got this new album!" by opening with "Wake" and "Given Up," the first two cuts from "Midnight" – choices that were well-received by the thousands of fans in attendance.

That pairing, however, was only the first two of 20 songs, picked from all of the band's records and delivered in a brisk hour and 20 minutes.

Utilizing both his primal, shrieking screams and soaring singing voice, frontman Chester Bennington here tore through favorites such as "Lying From You," "From the Inside" and "Crawling," yet his power was more evident when he and rapper and multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda would alter the band's sound and tempo.

"Shadow of the Day," with its sweeping, simple instrumentation, was a successful stab at early U2, while "The Little Things Give You Away," a track with a Nine Inch Nails vibe (circa "The Fragile"), sold fans on the quality of "Minutes." But it was a piano-and-vocals version of "Pushing Me Away" leading into a dynamic run through "Breaking the Habit" that finally sold me on the idea that Linkin Park isn't just that mega-popular screaming rap-metal thing anymore.

Critics and fans alike have had trouble making heads or tails of that change represented by "Minutes to Midnight." People expecting a heaping helping of more of the same probably weren't going to like the "weird changes and different stuff" (as Shinoda put it) that comprise the disc.

Live, however, Linkin Park was able to convert the non-believers via an evolutionary transition that likely has yet to produce what the outfit is fully capable of.

Too bad the same can't be said for the rest of the snooze-fest that was Projekt Revolution 2007.

The last time the occasional festival came around, in 2004, the lineup was a hybrid that pulled from many genres, spanning from metal figure like Korn and Mudvayne to hip-hop stars like Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill. So where has the variation gone?

East Coast emo behemoths My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday played second-fiddle to Linkin Park. Both had highly predictable stage shows that won the crowd over but had me yawning.

My Chem brought the same pyrotechnics display that filled the Forum and the Anaheim Arena last year, though this time the band blended songs from its not-so-good earlier days into the set, rather than running through its breakthrough album "The Black Parade" entirely.

Granted, those recent selections were still strong, and the older stuff was cleaner than it has ever been. With a maniacal grimace, wild hair and a bleeding cut on his cheek, singer Gerard Way hammered home the fact that, at 30, he's the current poster boy for teenage angst and awkwardness, thanks to songs like "Mama," "Give 'Em Hell Kid" and the aptly titled "Teenagers."

Taking Back Sunday rehashed the same show it presented last summer, albeit with less enthusiasm for a crowd of anxious Linkin Park fans. Vocalist Adam Lazarra was still swinging the microphone around his neck while singing emo anthems including "MakeDamnSure" and "A Decade Under the Influence" – nothing no one has seen before.

Finland's HIM and England's long-running Placebo, on the main stage, were both victims of shoddy mixes that placed vocals sometimes over and sometimes under muddy instrumentation.

HIM's gloomy goth-rock, a mesh of harrowing atmospherics and intense guitar work, played better than the Muse-y dark-pop of Placebo, but neither lived up to the buzz both bands have generated lately in alt-rock circles.s

On the second stage (the Revolution Stage) up-and-comers like Madina Lake and holdovers like Mindless Self Indulgence warmed up the crowd. Newport Beach's Saosin and Phoenix's the Bled, were the biggest draws, but the latter is still pumping out the same ol' machine-gun rattle while Saosin is still running on fumes from its last record.

OC Register - July 30, 2007



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