Linkin Park at BankAtlantic Center, January 20

Linkin Park
With Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Thursday, January 20, 2011

View a slideshow from the concert here.

Expectations ran high leading into Linkin Park's first date of its A Thousand Suns North American tour. With so many comparisons batted around equating the band's acclaimed, nuclear-themed album to serious artistic achievements by Pink Floyd and Radiohead, this launch had the promise of creating a new divide (or a unification) between the fans of old and the critics of new.

Did the shirtless bro-skis in the seats close to the right side of the stage realize the significance of the night, and would they hurry home and update their Tumblrs after this with quotes from J. Robert Oppenheimer? The possibility was in the air as the darkness poured over the crowd following Pendulum's electro-rock set -- a scene that failed to set this discerning crowd afire. As the thuds of ATS' apocalyptic intro "The Requiem" filled the air, light came from the gap between two large screens set at diagonals behind Linkin Park's stage equipment.

Soon after, the sextet found their spots onstage and launched into "Wretches and Kings," a defiant new rap track with Mike Shinoda leading the way with his best Chuck D flow. Both he and singer Chester Bennington were clad in svelte, black attire, and they took turns smacking a set of drum pads and stalking the stage. If nothing else, witnessing the veins in Bennington's neck bulge as he belts from his screeching register is not for the squeamish. Judging by the amount of rabid screaming along with the night's songs (in my section, anyhow), this crowd was ready.

As predicted by setlists posted from Linkin Park's dates overseas in the fall and our conversation with Bennington before the show, the "pockets" of new material mixed in with tried-and-true nü-metal came as expected. Of A Thousand Suns, ten of the 15 tracks figured in -- including all 18 seconds of "Empty Spaces." Disappointingly, the guys did not find room for the album's lead single, "The Catalyst."

Then again, it was "Faint," "Crawling," "Numb," and "One Step Closer" that turned this crowd into one unified, angry teenager. The mosh pits, fist pumps, and incessant wailing enveloping every square foot of the packed BankAtlantic Center -- sans a few seats in the upper deck -- showed that as much progress as the band has made artistically of late, the fans are still holding on to the 2000 model. When Shinoda let a hint of smirk out during "In the End," it's hard not to imagine that he's happy about the adulation but also pondering how much of the night's carefully staged artistry -- the stripped, acoustic "The Messenger" or his tight harmonies with Bennington on the soaring "Waiting for the End" -- was lost on the audience.

For comparison's sake, Radiohead pretty much stopped playing "Creep," its biggest hit ever, at about the time Bennington and company were first gaining a foothold a decade ago. If Linkin Park wants to avoid becoming a "greatest hits" act and wishes for the fans to take the new material seriously, dangling with every single big hit from the back catalog is not the way to go about it. 

The silver lining in this tipping point of a tour would be the U2-sized balladry that is surprisingly welcomed in these hardened, fiery ranks. "Shadow of the Day," which is practically "With or Without You" minus Bono's oozing falsetto part at the end, brought out the lighters. And new track "Iridescent" has more than a little Chris Martin in it. With a final mantra refrain of "let it go," this is the message Linkin Park should take to heart.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: A Thousand Suns is unified enough as an album experience that Linkin Park should just play it all the way through. And "The Catalyst" and "Robot Boy" should figure into these shows.

The crowd: Many surgically enhanced men and women in black. Teens and tweens. A guy next to me using his toddler son's leg as a guitar during "What I've Done."

Overheard: A lot of people screaming "SHUT UP" during "One Step Closer," but not much else.

Random detail: The crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to drummer Rob Bourdon during the encore.

Set List

The Requiem
Wretches and Kings
Given Up
New Divide
Empty Spaces
When They Come for Me
No More Sorrow
Jornada del Muerto
Waiting for the End
Wisdom, Justice, and Love
The Radiance
Breaking the Habit
Shadow of the Day
One Step Closer

The Messenger
In the End
What I've Done
Bleed It Out


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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer