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Toronto concert review

TORONTO (Billboard) - After supporting its sophomore Warner Bros. album, "Meteora," with a prime slot on Metallica's Summer Sanitarium tour, Linkin Park has reached the same heights of stardom Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit did a couple of years ago.

Now, headlining a four-hour, four-band North American tour, group is riding the seemingly last wave of nu metal/rap-rock to its fullest. Saturday night's stop in chilly Toronto before a sold-out crowd proved LP could captivate an audience, but only after allowing itself a bit more spontaneity onstage.

The 20-song, 90-minute set kicked off with a large "Linkin Park" curtain dropping as the band plowed through "With You" from 2000's "Hybrid Theory." Lead singers Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda worked the futuristic, multi-level stage by shaking hands and playing to the crowd on four mini-risers near the front. Preaching to the already converted horde of primarily teens standing throughout, Linkin Park sounded like a well-oiled, studio-perfect concert machine.

"Keep it up, we don't slow down here," Shinoda told the crowd as the virtually seamless set unfolded. "Papercut," "Don't Stay" and "Somewhere I Belong" were all delivered flawlessly, but Bennington's wailing vocals at times were drowned by the guitar of headphone-wearing Brad Delson.

However, this crisp, note-for-note perfection resulted in some early songs falling flat and an almost routine, clock-punching aura to the evening -- as if fans were listening to the band's latest "Live in Texas" release. Mixing new material with old, "It's Going Down," "Lying From You" and especially "Nobody's Listening" missed the mark, with Bennington and Shinoda executing the time honored, yet inane process of seeing which arena side could scream loudest.

Fortunately, "Faint" turned the show back in Linkin Park's favor. Peering for a possible guitarist on the floor, a fan was brought onstage to play on the song. The experiment worked and the intangible seemed a perfect catalyst for the home stretch. A four-song encore included a fierce "A Place for My Head," with Bennington losing himself in the moment.

P.O.D. opened its energetic 45-minute set with "Will You." Venturing into the crowd slightly more than the headliners, lead singer Sonny and his bandmates nailed "Boom" and the brooding "Set It Off" to large applause. What didn't work quite as well, aside from the tamer "Execute the Sounds," were the outdated green laser projections behind the band.

Audience participation proved again to fuel the highlight, as 10 fans were yanked from the crowd to sign on "Youth of the Nation." But the momentum was unfortunately halted during "Southtown," as a fan on the floor was injured. Slowing the song to a crawl before stopping to see what had happened (there was no official announcement), P.O.D. wrapped things up with the crowd-pleasing "Alive," from 2001's "Satellite."

The task of warming up the audience was given to Hoobastank and Story Of The Year, both of which have more pop/rock influences in them than they might believe. Hoobastank hit paydirt with "Crawling in the Dark" and "Out of Control," and gave a wink back to the '80s with a brief cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun."

Story Of The Year fared just as well as the crowd began settling in. "Until the Day I Die" found mohawked lead singer Dan Marsala in a frenzy, while "Anthem of Our Dying Day" was far more subdued. A cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" proved another highlight.

Here is Linkin Park's set list:

"With You"
"Points of Authority"
"Don't Stay"
"Somewhere I Belong"
"It's Going Down"
"Lying From You"
"Nobody's Listening"
"Breaking the Habit"
"From the Inside"
"In the End"
"My December"
"Pushing Me Away"
"A Place for My Head"
"One Step Closer"

Reuters/Billboard - January 26, 2004



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