Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre 9/11/14 Last night, 16,000 people found a brief distraction from the somber memory of 9/11 at Linkin Park's Carnivores Tour stop at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. The band arrived with 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI in tow to support The Hunting Party, a new album released in June. However, a good chunk of their set was dedicated to the band's earlier days. After opening with "Guilty All The Same" from their new release, three of the next four songs - "Given Up," "With You," "One Step Closer" and "Papercut" - all came from AFI's landmark first album, 2000's Hybrid Theory.
Linkin Park still sticks mostly to the radio-friendly rap-rock that made them famous - a Limp Bizkit buttered with more hooks and less misogyny. The formula serves them well, however, and more than a decade on, any rough edges from genre blending have been sanded off by years of touring and six studio albums. Resident rapper Mike Shinoda takes to the guitar and keyboards as much as the mic these days, and DJ Joseph Hahn - a brief beat breakdown in the middle of the set notwithstanding - provides backing atmospherics more than any outright scratching.
The signature screamo shriek of frontman Chester Bennington is still the focal point of much of Linkin Park's repertoire, and the song selection at Verizon didn't disappoint in that regard. Bennington broke up the guttural angst with the occasional nasally singing section, taken mostly from the band's later work, but the guy seems most like himself on stage when the veins are popping out of the sides of his neck.
Shinoda took to the stage alone before the encore to thank the servicemen and women that the band has met through an organization called IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), acknowledging the sacrifices they have made and the ongoing help that they need as members of civilian society. The respectful moment was welcome, if a bit awkward, and the loudest cheer came in response to the question "So do you guys want to hear some more music?"
Before Linkin Park took over, the most fun-filled and youthful energy of the evening came from 30 Seconds to Mars and frontman Jared Leto - unexpectedly, given that the singer is a recent Academy Award winner and 42 years old, topping both Bennington and AFI frontman Davey Havok. Leto worked the crowd relentlessly, bringing several songs to a full stop to single out individuals in the pit that weren't jumping or singing along enthusiastically enough for his taste. He made his way into the audience multiple times, including setting up near the sound board for a solo acoustic version of the band's hit "The Kill," and picked a star-struck, grade-school aged girl out of the crowd to sit nearby for a serenade.
30 Seconds to Mars plied a mishmash of stadium-rock tropes to keep their fans interested, including flags with the group's triad logo distributed throughout the audience, multiple U2-style sing-along choruses, and confetti and oversized balloons shot over the crowd a la The Flaming Lips. Leto noted the significance of September 11 by waving an American flag through one of the songs, and ended the set by promising that the band would sign copies of their new album at the merch booth when they left the stage, leading to a flock of females fleeing to the pavilion when the house lights went up.
Unfortunately, instead of A Fire Inside, opener AFI's acronym seemed to stand for "Afterthought Included" at this show. The band's set, according to a poster near the front gate, began at 6:25 - five minutes before the event itself reportedly started. Arguably the group with the most punk rock street cred on the bill, their stage lighting and goth aesthetic was made meager by the waning daylight, while most of the attendees still trickled in through the front gates.
AFI bashed through their 30 minute set with professional verve, including Havok's trek into the crowd during closer "Miss Murder," but the band stepped from the stage without a word to the audience, a read-between-the-lines protest of their lack of space on the schedule.
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Crowd: Lots of balding 30-somethings for Linkin Park, hyperventilating girls craning for a glimpse of Leto's abs, and late-arriving punks wondering 'when is AFI going on?' The best vantage point belonged to a few dozen fans allowed on gangplank-style balconies off to the sides of the stage. Like most VIP sections, however, many of the people watching from there looked bored.
Random Notebook Dump: A hard rock playlist filled the speakers between bands, but a choice At The Drive-In selection was interrupted so the venue could play a car commercial on the big screen. Blech.