Since achieving mainstream success in 1999 with the release of their debut album Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park (also known as LP) has worked tirelessly to steadily release records and keep with the times. This evolution led to them often being referred to as one of the pioneers in nu-metal and one of the most transitional bands of the late 90s rock scene. LP's latest album The Hunting Party was released in June of 2014 to much fanfare, being compared to their earlier work as a return to their hard rock roots. Now, with the help of AFI and co-headliners 30 Seconds to Mars, LP have been hitting the road with the "Carnivores Tour," a 25 date tour that has rocked arenas and blown minds across the United States and making its way to Canada. On August 12, 2014 the "Carnivores Tour" stopped in the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, N.C. to a packed arena of clamoring fans waiting for the chance to live and breathe the music for which they hungered.
Thanks to I-85 and prolonged 5 o'clock traffic, all but the final lingering notes of “Miss Murder” from AFI's set had been missed. Formerly known as the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, the PNC Music Pavilion was bursting with fans of all ages adorned in merch of all kinds representing the evening's lineup like flags at an embassy. Some 30 Seconds fans ( also known as " the echelon") were actually seen waving flags emblazoned with the band's signature echelon insignia.
When 30 Seconds To Mars took to the stage there was a moment of hush followed by a swell of cheers that seemed to rise out of the ground. Front man Jared Leto came forward decked out in an all white pant suit with long white trench-like jacket with various applique and a gold crown upon his head. With his long, flowing, brown hair, slender figure and shaggy beard he presented a sort of hipster Christ-like visage. Like in the lyrics to their song "End Of All Days" where Leto sings, "A maniac messiah, destruction is his game. A beautiful liar, love for him is pain," there did seem to be some attendees in the crowd that seemed to be both painfully and joyfully overwhelmed to be in his presence. 30 Seconds To Mars played a medley of songs from including “Kings and Queens” during which Leto himself jumped into the crowd and began climbing through the seats alongside and on top of fans. This is a vast departure from the stigma that was placed on the band in June of last year when they were chastised for wearing rubber gloves to their meet and greets and not interacting with fans.
Now, literally immersed in a sea of people, Leto looked not only at home, but happy even, as he was inundated with praise, fist bumps, hugs and miscellaneous gropes from ravenous audience members. After making his way back around the lower section of the arena, Leto returned to stage and the band rolled into the uplifting “Do or Die” from their latest release Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams. Of the release, Leto encouraged those in attendance to support their independent venture, as 30 Seconds had released the album on their own without the assistance of a record label, and he wasn't shy about letting everyone know how to get it, “Go to iTunes, go wherever, f**kin’ steal it if you don't have the money!”
After an acoustic medley of “Hurricane,” “From Yesterday,” and “The Kill (Bury Me),” during which Leto had come to a small solitary stage in the middle of the lower half of the arena and invited two adorable 13 year old fans onstage, he returned to his bandmates for their final song of the night, “Closer To The Edge.” In this final performance, Leto picked out about 35 audience members to join him onstage as the entire pavilion seemed to swell in a sing-a-long as canons on stage bursted with clouds of confetti, showering the entire front of stage and general admission pit.
When Linkin Park took the stage the excitement was palpable. They opened up their set with an instrumental mash-up that led directly into their high energy single “Guilty All The Same” from their latest album The Hunting Party. Front man Chester Bennington and co-vocalist, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Mike Shinoda made their home at the front of the stage with bassist Dave Farrell and lead guitarist Brad Delson. In what can only truly be described as a dazzling and vibrant visual display the men of LP embarked on a full throttle stage show that included mesmerizing lights, smoke and LCD screens that rose and descended in front of both drummer Rob Bourdon and DJ Joe Hahn’s elevated platforms. The band wasted no time jumping into some fan favorites from their RIAA Diamond certified debut Hybrid Theory including “Papercut,” “With You” and the single that started it all “One Step Closer.” These classics were littered amongst a bevy of other songs from across their repertoire including “Given Up” from Minutes to Midnight (2007), “Castle of Glass” off 2012’s Living Things, and “Blackout” from 2010’s A Thousand Suns.
Mid-set came a medley of LP ballads including “Leave Out All The Rest,” “Shadow Of The Day,” and “Iridescent” and marked the only considerable calm moment in the show thus far. Later in the set, Bennington climbed the barricade and began interacting with fans in the pit, to the visible joy and delight of many. The sweat soaked vocalist made his way around the front of the house clutching fists, high-fiving and hugging ecstatic fans who were clamoring to be at his side. The arena was electric with the buzz and energy emanating from the dynamic duo of Shinoda and Bennington as they worked the stage, engaged fans and visibly seemed to be living for the moment. Shinoda took a moment near the end of the set to perform his single “Remember The Name” from his independent project Fort Minor and it quickly became a sing-a-long as fans joined in alongside him word-for-word. When the guys left the stage there was a blackout and moment of uncertain silence before the entire arena began to chant “Linkin Park! Linkin Park!” as the momentum began to grow and swell. Bennington could be seen at side stage left stretching and hydrating, like a prizefighter prepping for the next round of the fight.
When the encore began, no one could have predicted that it would have turned into a whole other six-song set including their contributions to 2007’s Transformers film “What I’ve Done,” and “New Divide” from 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of of Fallen. Closing on the high impact, chugging and anthemic “Bleed It Out,” Linkin Park catapulted the energy in the space to new heights as the crowd could be seen dancing and jumping along with the song and bringing the night to an incendiary close. There was hardly a still body in the house has LP wound their way through the tracks that had defined not only a genre, but a generation. The late 90s was the advent of the nu-metal genre and the creation of a generation that finally had something to choose from other than hair metal or boy bands, something not in the middle but totally unique and one of the trendsetters for this evolution were Linkin Park.
It was refreshing to see that despite there being bands with larger stage set ups, pyrotechnics and explosions, that pure and unbridled passion can still win out. From a fan’s standpoint, nothing beats knowing every word to every song and being able to give yourself over to moment. Reliving those moments like nostalgic waves crashing overhead as the music fills your soul is what makes a concert memorable and touching. This is what Linkin Park did for me and countless others one balmy Tuesday night in North Carolina and it is an experience I, and many others, will never forget.