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POP MUSIC REVIEW

A quick romp in Linkin Park

The rap-metal outfit connects with the hometown crowd at the Wiltern with several songs from its new album, 'Meteora.'

March 26, 2003|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Linkin Park has time on its side. The band wastes nothing, delivering short, sharp bursts of noise and melody to satisfy the rock 'n' rap consumer. Albums clock in at about 38 minutes, and live shows are less than an hour -- short by modern standards, and no one complains.

Not that fans couldn't absorb more, but Linkin Park at least delivers during those moments on stage. Which was true enough Monday in the first of two nights at the Wiltern, where the Los Angeles quintet made music as dark and brooding as others of the thundering nu-metal breed, and twice as flexible, melodic and hopeful.

The band's debut, "Hybrid Theory," was the bestselling album of 2001. Now, Linkin Park is already at the point where playing a room as small as the Wiltern is considered a gracious gesture to hometown fans.

The band's set opened with the electronic clicks and pops of "Session," an instrumental from Linkin Park's new album, "Meteora." DJ Joseph Hahn collided samples and vinyl scratches throughout the night as an essential part of the band, not as a gimmick or fashion statement.

Crowd energy was high from the beginning, as the band opened the night with several new songs that seemed to connect immediately. "Somewhere I Belong" had rapper Mike Shinoda and singer-shouter Chester Bennington harmonizing with rage and yearning, while "From the Inside" had Bennington nearly doubling over with anguish and emotion.

"Faint" roared in places, yet left wide-open spaces for the raps of Shinoda. He's not the most distinctive rapper of his generation but gets by on explosive enthusiasm and a habit of drawing fans into the show, stalking the front of the stage like a preacher.

Some vocals got lost in the thunder of guitarist Brad Delson, but the connection with fans never wavered. The crowd frequently sang along in a roar of mutual frustration and hope, responding equally to the big hits and newer songs.

Monday's concert came a day before the official release of "Meteora." And Linkin Park had gone to great lengths to prevent the album from being leaked early and distributed free over the Internet. But late in the show, Bennington asked the crowd if anyone had already heard the album.

When several cheers and hands went up, Bennington looked seriously into the audience and said, "You guys are ... champions, man." Shinoda added, "Ooh, cheaters, you already know the words."

Opening act Blindside, a hard-rock quartet from Stockholm, raged with similar volume and abandon, though less distinctive song structure. The singer, Christian, looked like Joey Ramone with a better haircut, standing tall and thin in his high-top sneakers.

He later joined Linkin Park for its encore, hopping and banging his head like any other fan, as Bennington and Shinoda shouted their final words. After 57 minutes, it was all over. But a few Linkin Park members lingered on stage or jumped into the photo pit upfront to say their goodbyes, no one's waste of time.

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