Linkin Park + Friends Lift Spirits, Let It Go at Emotionally Cathartic Chester Bennington Tribute Show
As Linkin Park have been a beacon of light for many fans around the world, in their toughest hour, they've received all that they've given back tenfold in the months since Chester Bennington's death this summer. And it's in part that the fans have done so much for the band of late that they were back onstage Friday night (Oct. 27) at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Understandably, it was not an easy decision to return to the stage, with Mike Shinoda later saying it was the hardest thing the band had ever decided to do. But this night was about celebrating the life of Bennington and the musical bond and connection that he and the band had made with audiences, peers and friends throughout the years.
All kinds of fans made the pilgrimage to the Hollywood Bowl for this special tribute to Bennington. On the shuttle ride in, the bus was filled with Linkin Park fans wearing shirts dating as far back as the Hybrid Theory album or as fresh as merch from their One More Light disc. Though based in L.A., it was a universal crowd, with this reporter speaking with people who flew in from Houston, Indianapolis and New York specifically for the show. Upon arriving at the Bowl, audiences were treated to a DJ set from Z-Trip, who rocked the crowd with favorites from Tears for Fears, Beastie Boys and one of Chester's favorites, Depeche Mode. Z-Trip got a little emotional when recalling the song he recorded with Bennington, "The Walking Dead," reflecting on how they were two kids from Arizona who made it out and had success.
With Z-Trip's set complete, roadies quickly shuffled things for a quick turnaround, with the show opening with a voice over of all the members expressing how powerful it was to see the messages of support from fans, what an emotional experience it is and how the night was not meant to be sad, but uplifting and hopeful. The show opened with the spotlight on Mike Shinoda behind the keyboards delivering a somber opening that picked up with the support of his bandmates as they ran through "Robot Boy," "The Messenger" and "Iridescent," with the "let it go" refrain really striking a chord with the crowd. After the live debut of "Roads Untraveled," one of the first celebratory but teary-eyed moments came with fans needing a release. The band started to play "Numb," but it quickly became clear that no vocalist was coming, with a solitary spotlight beamed down on a vacant mic stand with a wreath around it. Bennington's vocal was always so impactful and heartfelt on the song, but on this night, the fans were ready to belt with intensity hoping their voices could reach the heavens. As the song concluded, "Chester" chants could be heard echoing throughout the Bowl.
As the show was billed "Linkin Park and Friends," it was time to bring out the first guest. Mike Shinoda spoke about how the performer was one of the first to offer a musical tribute after Chester's death and welcomed Yellowcard's Ryan Key to the stage. The singer did one of the more spot-on jobs of the night, taking on "Shadow of the Day" while the band added a string section to enhance the performance. Midway through the track, Key and Shinoda segued into a bit of U2's "With or Without You," which fit well given the circumstances. The string section remained, giving depth to "Leave Out All the Rest" which featured Bush's Gavin Rossdale making a surprise appearance on vocal.
As stated, this show was meant to be a celebration of Chester's life, and the band managed to fill some of the time between performers showing just how much life Chester had, whether it be mocking his bandmates with Freddie Mercury high notes, stepping behind the wheel of a race car or fully committing to a song about "Unicorns and Lollipops," which had the audience doing call and response to the delight and laughter of Shinoda.
After starting off the night more somber and mid-tempo, it was time to kick it up a notch and the band invited Taka Moriuchi of the group's intended tour partners One OK Rock to the stage. Moriuchi flew straight from Japan to take part in the show, but there was no sign of jet lag as the singer bounded around the stage to "Somewhere I Belong." One of the bigger surprise guests came next with Linkin Park inviting the pre-billed members Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young from No Doubt to the stage, but had them joined by a blonde-haired Alanis Morissette. The foursome rocked "Castle of Glass" with the guys, before Shinoda invited Morissette to showcase a brand new song that she had demoed and shared with the band. The track was called "Rest," and it was penned by Mike Farrell, who joined Morissette onstage. Morissette spoke of how the song was written about addiction and depression, and this proved to be one of the first pin-drop moments of the night, as the audience hung on every word of the moving and powerful track.
Linkin Park's current album One More Light got a lot of love in the mid-part of the show, starting with "Nobody Can Save Me" aided by Civil Twilight's Steven McKellar and the song's co-writer Jon Green. Green stuck around and took primary vocals on another of his co-writes, "Battle Symphony," a song where fans could audibly be heard singing along. Another co-writer, Ilsey Juber, took a turn in the spotlight on the country-ish "Sharp Edges" and "Talking to Myself," a track that worked in a bit of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." Co-writer Julia Michael and duet partner Kiiara recreated "Heavy" for the crowd, and the Bowl lit up with glow sticks and cell phone lights for the tear-jerker "One More Light" as Shinoda took the lead on keys, flanked by a seated Brad Delson and Phoenix Farrell.
Those wondering about Linkin Park's future got their first hint from Shinoda about midway into the show. The co-vocalist revealed to the crowd that he was at a photo shoot when he heard the news and his immediate reaction was disbelief. He had always dealt with hard times through music and even though he couldn't quite bring himself to listen to his own band's music, at about Day 8, he started to write a song that is still a work in progress. While Shinoda did not directly say what the future for the band is, he revealed that should they decide to continue he'd like to let fans see the progress of the track as it gets put together via social media and that the performance was just the first step. Standing behind his keyboard, Shinoda then delivered the song "Looking for an Answer," which is as heartfelt and self-explanatory as you can get when it comes to what the musician went through following Bennington's death. The song includes the straight to the core line, "I was looking for an answer when there never really was."
While there were hints of the heavier side early in the show, Linkin Park truly rocked during the home stretch of the evening. Steven McKellar returned to the stage along with Echosmith's Sydney Sierota for the bouncy "Waiting for the End," which was accentuated by a confetti blast and Rob Bourdon's killer drumming bringing the song to a climactic conclusion. Shinoda shared a story about the next performer's first show being a Linkin Park gig where he was actually in a crowd shot that appeared on Kerrang magazine. Then he brought out Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes to send the crowd into a frenzy with "Crawling," while EDM favorite Zedd pounded away on drums. The band's intended tourmate Machine Gun Kelly traded raps with Shinoda on the high energy "Papercut," and the crowd may have piqued when Korn's Jonathan Davis and Bennington's Dead by Sunrise bandmates Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh delivered an absolutely blistering rendition of "One Step Closer" that had the audience almost threatening to drown everyone out. Shinoda, moved by the energy in the venue, made his first stage dive of the night into the crowd.
The rock was in full force as Shinoda traded vocals with A Day to Remember's Jeremy McKinnon, while Sum 41 drummer Frank Zummo and System of a Down's Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian helped to recreate Malakian's guest turn on "Rebellion." Zummo then stuck around, as Shinoda revealed it was the drummer's suggestion to make a last minute add to the bill, revealing that Deryck Whibley would be perfect to take on "The Catalyst," and it proved out that Whibley delivered one of the more inspired performances of the night.
After a brief break in the action, which featured video tributes from the likes of U2, Paul McCartney, Duff McKagan, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Dave Gahan and Metallica, the lights came back up to reveal Blink-182, who performed their hit song "I Miss You." The band stuck around to be joined by Linkin Park's members for "What I've Done." The emotions were on high again, as Shinoda welcomed his favorite guest -- the fans. With "In the End" always being one of their biggest sing alongs, the band played while the stage remained vacant giving the audience a cathartic experience trying to match Bennington's vocal.
With the body of the show complete, a few minutes lapsed until Bennington's widow Talinda came to the stage to address the crowd. "He would have loved all of this," she stated, before a long line of thank you's that included her Linkin Park brothers. "I love each and every one of you and am thankful Chester brought you into our lives." "You have lifted us up," said Bennington to the fans, before addressing her husband's love of helping others through Music for Relief. Chester's widow then stated, "The time is here to realize mental health is as important as physical health." She then expressed her dedication to continue helping those in need with the new 320 Changes Direction organization, named as such after Chester's birthday. After an embrace from Shinoda, the band returned to the stage to finish out the night.
A clip of Bennington requesting a show of love while addressing the Manchester attack earlier this year during his final performance displayed the humanity of the man that the singer was, as the band played a bit more of "Iridescent" with the "let it go" refrain a little more triumphant this time. "New Divide" followed as the band's onstage playing was given a boost by video and audio recording from their 2014 show at the Hollywood Bowl. Then frequent collaborator Steve Aoki and pal Bebe Rexha helped the band show off more of their electronic side with a performance of "A Light That Never Comes," turning the Bowl into a giant party with another blast of confetti as Aoki, Rexha and Shinoda walked the catwalk around the pit shaking hands with the fans.
The final guests of the night both hail from the same band. First, Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows, sporting matching red flannel with Mike Shinoda, gave a passionate rendition of "Burn It Down," then stuck around as his guitarist Synyster Gates got in on the fun of performing "Faint," adding a blistering solo into the mix. Concluding the night, it was a collective of all the guests for the show helping out on "Bleed It Out," which segued back into "The Messenger" bringing it back full circle to the opening of the show.
Only time will tell what the future holds for Linkin Park, but as Shinoda indicated, the experience of the past few months has him writing. Though it was definitely a joyous and emotional evening for the fans, the show was bound to stir up an even wider range of feelings for the members themselves, who played for an audience for the first time since Bennington's death and must determine if that's something they can come to terms with moving forward. If this was the band's final show, they left audiences with a night that no one will forget. The music speaks for itself and has been a communal experience that will live amongst their dedicated fans well beyond the band's tenure. But you can't help feeling that there's still plenty left to be said and vital music to be made, and hopefully the show will be the first step in Linkin Park's second act.
Check out the Linkin Park & Friends - Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington show above, and see the full track listing below.
Linkin Park & Friend - Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington
1. Robot Boy intro
2. Iridescent / Messenger Mash-Up with Jon Green (co-writer 'Nobody Can Save Me' and 'Battle Symphony')
3. Roads Untraveled with Jon Green
4. Numb with audience singing vocals
5. Shadow of the Day / With Or Without You with Yellowcard's Ryan Key
6. Leave Out All the Rest with Bush's Gavin Rossdale
7. Somewhere I Belong with One OK Rock's Taka Moriuchi
8. Castle of Glass with No Doubt's Tony Dumont, Adrian Young, Tony Kanal and Alanis Morissette
9. Rest - original Alanis Morissette song
10. Nobody Can Save Me with Civil Twilight's Steven McKellar and Jon Green
11. Battle Symphony with Jon Green
12. Sharp Edges with Ilsey Juber (who co-wrote Talking to Myself & Sharp Edges)
13. Talking to Myself / All Along the Watchtower with Ilsey Juber
14. Heavy - with Kiiara and songwriter Julia Michaels
15. One More Light
16. Looking for an Answer - New Mike Shinoda penned tribute
17. Waiting for the End with Echosmith's Sydney Sierota and Steven McKellar
18. Crawling with Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes & Zedd
19. Papercut with Machine Gun Kelly
20. One Step Closer with Korn's Jonathan Davis and Julien-K's Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh
21. A Place for My Head with A Day to Remember's Jeremy McKinnon
22. Rebellion with System of a Down's Daron Malakian & Shavo Odadjian and Sum 41's Frank Zummo
23. The Catalyst with Sum 41's Deryck Whibley and Frank Zummo
24. Miss You - Blink 182 alone
25. What I’ve Done with Blink 182 and Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn
26. In The End - crowd sings
27. New Divide - with video of Chester singing from previous Hollywood Bowl show as the band plays.
28. A Light That Never Comes with Steve Aoki, Bebe Rexha and Frank Zummo
29. Burn It Down with Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows
30. Faint with Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows and Synyster Gates
31. Bleed It Out / The Messenger with everyone