Here’s one for the fact fans out there, in Download Festival’s 11 year history, Linkin Park have headlined the event more times than anyone else, with a whopping 4 headline appearances to their name. This puts them one ahead both Metallica and Iron Maiden who are both tied at 3 a piece.
It’s interesting to imagine that for all the hate and negativity that Linkin Park get slung their way, they have headlined that amount of times and still manage to pull a relatively large crowd every time too. In fact, add in a Sonisphere headline slot, a Reading & Leeds headline slot, and a Milton Keynes show appearance to their name and their big show record in the UK is pretty impressive. As often happens the trolls will still try to tell you no one gives a shit…go figure.
With that said, in the 14 years, (yes, it has been that long) since the release of the bands debut album “Hybrid Theory,” I’ve never seen the band play a full set live which itself is also an impressive feat considering they’ve been everywhere. But this year at Download I was determined to see them. I was even willing to miss the return of Sikth, a band I have all the respect in the world for, and Behemoth who have released one of the year’s best albums, just to catch Linkin Park. I made this effort for one reason, “Hybrid Theory,” in full!
When I was 15 years old, and just getting into metal, I had a busted ass cassette Walkmen and a bunch of cassettes and on one of those I had “Infest” by Papa Roach on one side and “Hybrid Theory” on the other, which was the soundtrack to my paper route and my school days. So the chance to hear it live was too good to resist.
Wisely the band realises that playing all of “Hybrid Theory” is the main selling point of tonight’s set and they open with it right out of the gate, and for the next 40 minutes Linkin Park roll out more bangers than a sausage factory. Hit after hit after motherfuckin’ hit. It’s easy to poke holes and dig into Linkin Park, but when they play one of the biggest selling rock albums of all time, with songs that sound as fresh now as they did 14 years ago, how could anyone not be impressed. Lucky for me the album itself contains my two favourite band tracks, ‘With you’ and ‘Pushing me away’ so I was beyond stoked to hear them live.
The best thing about the play through of “Hybrid Theory” isn’t just the songs, it’s the massive party atmosphere that ignites in the audience. You people singing their hearts out, strangers partying with strangers, there was a real sense of people getting involved and having the times of their lives. Looking further into the crowd and seeing members of Bowling For Soup and Upon A Burning Body mingling and getting down with other fans over a common love of something shows what a true community metal and rock really is.
But with the highs must come the lows and as quickly as the “Hybrid Theory” raised everyone’s spirits, the second half of the set fails to bring the same energy. As the band digs further into their back catalogue it becomes clear just how uneven it is, but also how it pales so much in comparison to that debut. Whilst not bad, it does lose a lot of the momentum that the first 40 minutes had, and sees the audience grow restless, an inevitable end I think.
Still Linkin Park solider on and manage to cull together a set that in many ways shows why they became a headline act and why the band themselves admit to not being a metal band. Far too experimental and pop orientated for those that long for the straightforward nu metal stomp of the “Hybrid Theory” years. Even if it was only a game of one half, it was still a better experience than what I was hoping for, and in the end that’s all that really matters.
Photo credit: Andrew Whitton