in performance: linkin park, coheed and cambria and chiodos

linkin park 

“You don’t want the Canadians to be louder than you, do ya’?” teased Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.

Ah, yes. The rock ‘n’ roll dare. Egging on a hearty Rupp Arena crowd with the idea that audiences the increasingly streamlined California nu-metal band played to recently in Ontario made a rowdier ruckus than the one at hand in Big Blue Country. Understandably, the noise from the seats shot through the roof.

It was a cheap ploy, of course. And a moot one. After all, Linkin Park had already cooked up an ear-blasting assault that ran from the throat-ripping angst fest Given Up, the rap-rocking Somewhere I Belong – one of many fine moments that employed Bennington and rapper/co-vocalist Mike Shinoda as a performance tag team – and the crunchy bolero-esque No More Sorrow.

After those little earthquakes, audiences in Lexington, Canada and Timbuktu could scream from now to Labor Day and not match Linkin Park’s volume and intensity.

But, for once, this wasn’t an arena rock show that let its thunder fade to static. Unlike Linkin Park’s 2004 Rupp outing – a numbing, horribly mixed aggravation that swallowed up every lick of invention the band offered – this performance offered impressive dynamics.

Admittedly, much of that was due to the fresh material from the band’s third studio album, Minutes to Midnight – a record that has tempered Linkin Park’s volume but not its temperament.

Typical of the newer tunes was In Pieces, which began as a plaintive ballad with Shinoda on keyboards and Bennington on a vocal lead that reigned in the screams and snarls. But just when you thought things got a little too settled, In Pieces fused together into one of the heartiest pop grooves Linkin Park has ever lost itself in.

Then on Shadow of the Day, a tune that came across as a more vengeful variation of U2’s With or Without You, Bennington took over. His vocals transformed into a rich melodic lead that still managed to reflect an uneasy undercurrent.

The shift in tempo and volume also unveiled the evening’s most quiet and inward surprise: a non-album gem called My December performed only by Bennington and Shinoda.

Expanding, contracting and artfully playing with its hotheaded sound came with a price, however. Last night attendance figure was 9,400 – down from the 12,000 fans Linkin Park brought into Rupp in 2004 (a show also held on a Monday). But make no mistake, this was the more insightful, more nuanced and, when the time came, more confrontational of the two concerts. It was light years stronger.

New York rockers Coheed and Cambria – a self-described “prog” band that fleshes out the extended sci-fi musings and narratives of singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez  – preceded Linkin Park.

There was some dazzling instrumentation, especially in the guitar vocabulary of Sanchez and Travis Stever on the set-opening No World for Tomorrow. The band’s expanded lineup also offered an intriguing mix of sounds, strategies and sights that included metal-savvy guitar hooks, female backing vocals, a doomsday storyline incomprehensible to all but the band’s most ardent fans and, most impressively, Sanchez’s hair. Man, has he got a mountain of it. At times, when stationary at the microphone, he looked like a hefty palm tree with locks covering his entire face.

Michigan’s Chiodos opened the evening with a similarly varied sampler of pop and rock treats, but the sound mix buried the vocal shrieks, groans and croons of singer Craig Owens. Jason Hale favored better, with a guitar display that drove over – and sometimes straight through – the band’s crunchy pop reveries.

(above photo of Linkin Park by James Minchon)

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