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LIVE: Linkin Park At The Forefront Of Projekt Revolution

Linkin Park at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 21, 2007.

August 21, 2007
Molson Amphitheatre
Toronto, ON

Even the weather was emo.

Through the chill, the gloomy greyness and the occasional spot of rain, thousands of all-agers stuck it out from noon to the late hours at the Molson Amphitheatre, eager to catch the day's worth of bands at the Projekt Revolution festival — or, at least, to get a good seat for the evening's joint headliners: My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park. And you thought the Marilyn Manson/Slayer bill was weird.

The smaller bands on the "Revolution Sidestage" had the task of warming up the audience, playing to the masses as they trooped in over the bridge at Ontario Place. This wasn't an unenviable position, to be sure. After all, amphitheatre security wasn't letting anybody into the seated area until 4 p.m., so the hordes were literally forced to hang around outside and watch the bands. That's not a bad way to get exposure, especially since most kids had nothing better to do on a Tuesday but make the Ex grounds their new mini-mall hangout.

I wasn't entirely impressed with Mindless Self Indulgence's Phoenix show back in the winter, but I've mellowed on them since then. They have their subgenre locked down — juvenile, screechy electroclash — and I'm still not convinced that they're actually playing their instruments beneath all the samples, but frontman Jimmy Urine's schtick of self-deprecation combined with audience-baiting, while wearing hot pink arm-warmers and matching skinny tie, is always halfway amusing. As the final band playing the Sidestage, they probably got the majority of the onlookers. But, as usual, the crowd was polarized over whether MSI were obnoxiously hilarious or "total shit, man!" Still, it was hard not to nod along to "1989" or "Shut Me Up."

Then it was on to the main stage, where Julien-K were the first to launch the big backdrops and elaborate set pieces. Some of you may remember Julien-K in their previous incarnation as Orgy. With this band, they're doing exactly what they did as Orgy, just under a new, incomprehensible moniker. And, just as before, their cliches would have been laughable — duelling guitars, duelling synths, guyliner and manscara by the boatload, a shades-wearing singer who stripped mid-waist and writhed on the stage after announcing "this is a song about strippers and fucking" — but, dammit, Orgy's one big hit (their 1998 electro-rock cover of New Order's "Blue Monday") is on my iTunes top 25 for good reason. Their ear candy is far better than their douchey packaging. Add a guest spot by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington during "Technical Difficulties," during which the crew aided in the song's gimmick by taking apart the stage set while the duet went on, and Julien-K went off with a bang. Were this still 2001, they might actually have some sort of impact on the music scene, but it's hard to see them hitting it big past their native Los Angeles.

As the memorable first chords of "Pure Morning" reverberated through the bandshell, London trio Placebo hit the stage to their classic and rarely played 1998 single. This immediately set a much different tone than when they played the Kool Haus in April. Even frontman Brian Molko was much more jovial and talkative this time around. Despite the fact that he has a strange, British-American sort of swallowed inflection to his speaking voice, Molko's appearance remains practically ageless. This time he looked like a cross between a naughty schoolboy and an androgynous elf prince.

Since they're from across the pond, Placebo seemed much more at home in the multi-band festival environment, and they used this familiar territory to their advantage. They played a set that was evenly split between songs from their newest release, Meds, and older favourites such as "Special K," "Nancy Boy" and a particularly provocative version of "Taste In Men." Sadly, they didn't close with their thunderous cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," but a passionate rendition of "The Bitter End" did just fine. Never mind that the crowd looked mostly unmoved during their set, Placebo gave it their all and walked off smiling.

Next up: Finnish cult heroes HIM. They perform something they call "love metal," but any goth fan worth their pentagram knows that they're mostly aping Sisters Of Mercy circa 1985. And damn if they didn't look completely uninterested while doing it. His Infernal Majesty, the brooding Ville Valo, mostly wandered in a circle and appeared insanely bored throughout the set, which was an even toss-up between their older stuff ("Your Sweet Six Six Six") and newer material ("Wings Of A Butterfly" from 2005's Dark Light). It was, however, kind of awesome that Valo chain-smoked while he sang, because you know there's no way he could have missed seeing any of the dozen No Smoking signs pasted all over the bandshell.

With glam, goth and electro out of the way, Taking Back Sunday were left with the task of bringing gimmick-free, straight-up screamo to the masses. They seem like the kind of band who high school kids listen to when they want music that "understands" them, and it's not difficult to see how TBS fit that bill. Frontman Adam Lazzara had a personable, easy way of bantering with both the audience and co-singer/guitarist Fred Mascherino (whom Lazzara even managed to coerce into performing a brief and capable cover of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature"), and even dressed down just like a regular brah. Well, a regular Canadian lumberjack brah who wears red plaid shirts, anyway.

If Taking Back Sunday's workmanlike ethos was meant to make My Chemical Romance's stage spectacle even more grandiose by comparison, it certainly worked. The New Jersey fivesome had it all: pyro, fireworks, a wicked set, seizure-inducing lights, and a crowd eating out of their hands. From the moment Gerard Way marched onstage, resplendent in black hair and mostly-sweatproof skullface makeup, and began to belt out "This Is How I Disappear," the audience — especially the ones with XX chromosomes — freaking lost it.

With Way leading the audience in drill-sergeant fashion, MCR stuck to their newer material, with a few favourite singles — "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" and "Give `Em Hell, Kid," with the classic "Helena" as the closer — thrown in to appease the rabid audience. The marching stomp of "Welcome To The Black Parade" combined with Way's goose-stepping and posturing was enough to mobilize the entire bandshell into fits of cheering and fist-pumping (although all his "I'm so horny and want to fuck all of you" talk came off as more Robin Black-sad than sexy).

Finally, the night ended with one for all the dudes: Linkin Park.

Here's where the whole Projekt Revolution bill sort of started to make sense. Emo owes a lot more to LP than one would assume. When you think about it, it's that same moaning "nobody understands me" sentiment, only it's accompanied with a scratchy turntable and rapping over guitar chords. For some, this remains as odious a combination as it was five years ago. But judging by the amount of headbanging, jumping and screaming, time hasn't weakened Linkin Park's fanbase.

Mike Shinoda and Bennington, the undisputed stars of the show, made for an interesting contrast: the former a guitar-slinging rapper with a constant smile on his face, and the latter, the angriest red-faced dude in rock music. Honestly, I'm willing to bet Bennington has no voice in the morning. But the good thing is that he saves all that power for the stage, bellowing screams that sound just as powerful live as they do on album, especially on "Somewhere I Belong" (placed conveniently near the beginning of the set as a preview of the vocal strength to come).

LP didn't blow their wad by putting all their big singles in the first half, instead keeping "Breaking The Habit" and "In The End" in the back end while playing mostly older cuts from Hybrid Theory and Meteora. Still, new song "Hands Held High" was received with warm familiarity from the audience, who were easily coaxed by Bennington and Shinoda into a massive choral singalong. After a smooth segue into "Numb," it was obvious that LP were the hosts of the show for a reason.

It may not have been entirely clear what Projekt Revolution stood for, but, at the end of the day, the feeling of being one between fans, bands and musical genres was undeniable. World peace might be a long way away, but the small bit of harmony at the Molson Amphitheatre, even while being screamed at by a sweaty nu-metal band, was at least momentarily satisfying.

By Staff - August 24, 2007



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