There are hundreds of concerts in a year, but every now and then a show comes along and rightly blows you away - and this time, that was Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds to Mars and AFI out on the Carnivores Tour.
The general admission pit area of PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, North Carolina, was already packed with a sizeable crowd on Tuesday evening as AFI promptly opened up at 6:30 P.M.. Vocalist and founder Davey Havok, bassist Hunter Burgan and guitarist Jade Puget were full of energy and wasted no time in getting the crowd hyped up. Hunter and Jade constantly swapped sides of the stage, jumping on and off risers. Meanwhile, Davey jumped off stage onto a platform that extended out into the crowd, constantly making his way to the barricade, allowing fans to get up close and personal. The crowd happily sang along to AFI's nine song set, which featured "Girl's Not Grey," "Silver and Cold" and numerous other singles from their early discography. The California goth-punk band closed with "Miss Murder," from their seventh studio album Decemberunderground. The song won MTV's Video Music Award for Best Rock Song in 2006 and remains as AFI's most commercially successful single to date.
When "O Fortuna" blared throughout the pavilion, a handful of giant large white flags were dispersed throughout the crowd and there was no doubt that the crowd was in for something over the top. And he certainly appeared over the top, as actor-turned-musician Jared Leto came out on stage sporting long hair and beard, dressed entirely in white robes and embellished in a golden crown. After playing roles in Fight Club, American Psycho and Requiem for a Dream, Jared proved himself to be multi-talented after founding Thirty Seconds to Mars in 1998 with older brother Shannon Leto (drums). Their debut, self-titled album in 2002 was critically well received, but it wasn't until the release of A Beautiful Lie in 2005 that the band reached worldwide success.
Thirty Seconds to Mars released their fourth album Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams last year in May, and with multiple Platinum, Gold and Silver certifications, it was no wonder that their set was comprised largely of the new material. The LA rockers also made sure to appeal to fans of the previous album This Is War, playing the title track as well as "Kings and Queens," both of which hit number one spots on US Alternative Rock charts and received Gold certifications. Following a twelve song performance, Thirty Seconds to Mars brought a few selected lucky fans on stage for their encore "Closer to the Edge."
When a tour lineup features two major bands, it's typical to see the crowd thin out after the first of them plays (noted particularly at this year's Carolina Rebellion and Rockstar Mayhem Festival). Such was definitely not the case at this show. In fact, the size of the crowd was easily one of the largest that the PNC Music Pavilion has seen this summer. Granted, when the headlining band has been around for nearly 20 years, has won two Grammy Awards and has a discography loaded with multiple platinum RIAA certifications, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Linkin Park hit the stage running, blasting their set off with "Guilty All the Same," the first single and already number one hit from their most recent, highly anticipated June album release The Hunting Party. The band debuted as a nu-metal/rap-rock band with their first two albums, then began shifting into an electronic sound with the next three albums. The shift received mainly positive reviews, but loyal fans were critical of the departure from their original sound. Perhaps their diversity has helped contribute to them being able to stay current against many other rock bands that have faded from mainstream... but whatever the case, The Hunting Party seems to show the start of another shift - a step back into the energy and rock from their original albums.
Progressing backwards through their discography, Minutes to Midnight single "Given Up" was played next. That was followed up with "With You," a non-single from Hybrid Theory - the Diamond certified album that start it all. Hybrid Theory is included in the book of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, ranked #11 on Billboard's Hot 200 Albums of the Decade and featured four singles that launched the band to popularity.
Lead vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda intertwine their contrasting styles perfectly. Chester ranges from controlled melodic lyrics to outright guttural screams, while Mike raps flawless through the verses of "Papercut" and "Runaway." When Mike isn't accompanying Chester on the mic he's occupied doing something else, whether it be guitars, keyboards, or even synths. Make no mistake though, it's not just about the vocalists. Linkin Park has an entirely unique set, with very few of the songs remaining consistent with studio album versions. Song after song intertwines with the next by way of Joe "Mr. Hahn" Hahn's turntable remixes. While they won't be caught performing any show offish solos, Brad Delson (guitar) and Dave "Phoenix" Farrell (bass) are still unmissable, as they seamlessly integrate their sound with the eclectic mesh of vocals and electronica.
The level of crowd interaction during Linkin Park's show was skyrocketed. During the bridge after "Waiting for the End" Chester jumped off the stage and stood on the barricade, singing to the crowd. One fan fervently waved a UNC hat at Chester, who took it and wore it through the beginning of the band's newest single "Final Masquerade," before tossing it back. Then, Mike gave everyone a throwback to the time when he produced his own side-project Fort Minor. The crowd went crazy as he stepped onto the barricade and rapped out "Remember The Name." Of course, no Linkin Park show could go without the band's most recognizable song, "In The End."
With an excess of twenty songs played, it was almost surprising that there was room for an encore. The stage did dim, however, and the guys went backstage for a moment, while the crowd cheered, stomped and otherwise made so much of a ruckus that they may have actually been louder than the band themselves. At the insistent beckoning of the fans, Linkin Park reappeared and not only played an encore, but a six song long one, at that! Both Chester and Mike took turns hopping off the stage, walking every inch of the barricade to shake hands, give hugs and take selfies with the front row fans during "Burn It Down," "Lost in the Echo," "New Divide," "Until It's Gone," and "What I've Done." Rob Bourdon was given the opportunity to showcase his skills with a hard hitting drum solo during the true finale, "Bleed It Out," then Mike and Chester shared a hug while they thanked the crowd and said goodnight. Guitar picks, drum sticks, setlists and sweat towels were thrown to the crowd. But even without a tangible token, the surge of adrenaline from experiencing the actual live show will surely make more than a worthy memory.
With a diverse lineup full of bands and songs from both now and yesteryear, showgoers of all ages and both longtime loyal and new fans alike have something to appeal to. The Carnivores Tour was undoubtedly one of this year's highlights, and not one to be missed as it makes it's way around North America throughout this month and September.