A hard rock band can be judged by the company it keeps. In its fourth outing leading its Projekt Revolution Tour, Linkin Park has this time chosen darkness over rage, gloom over volume, goth over rap-metal. The band's sound hasn't changed, only the context, sharing Saturday's tour stop at the Hyundai Pavilion in Devore with the musical vampires of My Chemical Romance, Placebo, HIM and others.
Linkin Park has never been goth itself. The SoCal act does most of its brooding at another pace: angrier, louder, more aggressive. But the ambitious lineup of 11 acts on two stages put some distance between the band and the '90s "nu-metal" label that has defined Linkin Park for most of its career.
Regardless of genre, Linkin Park ignited its 90-minute set in the present tense with "Given Up," a song of speedy riffs and raging self-loathing ("I'm my own worst enemy!") from the band's new album, "Minutes to Midnight."
That album suggested a subtle but meaningful shift in Linkin Park's approach, emphasizing the rock vocals of Chester Bennington over the rapping of Mike Shinoda, who co-produced the recording with Rick Rubin. Onstage, that was less evident, as Shinoda picked up a microphone by the third song ("Lying From You") for a burst of thundering rhymes and then rarely put it down.
Fans shouted along to such signature radio hits as "Faint" and "Numb," hinting at some unexpected life yet in the faded genre, even if their contemporaries Limp Bizkit have about as much chance for a comeback as Oasis. Linkin Park explored other possible futures too, including an adoring ballad in the U2 mold, "Shadow of the Day," amid the more intense emotional eruptions.
Earlier in the evening, My Chemical Romance delivered its goth-pop-punk sound at a frantic pace. As the band finished the bristling "The Sharpest Lives," rhythm guitarist Frank Iero flung his instrument hard to the back of the stage and soon smeared what appeared to be blood across the pale cheek of singer Gerard Way.
The hourlong set was frantic and morose, slowing for the delicate piano melody and marching beat on "The Black Parade," the stirring title song from the band's latest album. Elsewhere, lead guitarist Ray Toro sounded like a speedier Brian May or some other flash guitarist from the glam-rock past. The band's "Dead!" came off like supercharged Cheap Trick.
The rest of the concert unfolded in daylight -- not the most comfortable place for a band of the goth persuasion. Placebo survived the experience, performing songs from "Meds," its striking new album of pain and romance.
Brooding heartthrob Ville Valo of HIM was like a morose Tom Jones: dark, urgent, romantic, a cigarette burning between his fingers, stomping to the beat of "Buried Alive by Love." Stage fog and flashing lights had little effect in the shade at 5:45 p.m., and the four-piece Finnish act suffered from a sound mix that had bass and drums blurring the sharpness of guitar and vocals, but HIM was still more vivid onstage than on record.
Taking Back Sunday also dressed in black but was a far more straight-ahead modern rock act, bouncing across the stage, if with fewer satisfying songs. "This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)" exploded with noise and conviction as Adam Lazzara sang on his knees, on his back, twisted up with his microphone cord. Loud, sweaty and definitely not filled with a vampire-like sadness.