Linkin Park at Minnesota State Fair, 8/26/14
Photo by Adam DeGross
with Thirty Seconds to Mars and AFI
Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, St. Paul
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
It seems as if each night at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand has a certain theme, and Tuesday night's was angst-ridden arena rock. As the sun set on a beautiful night, the midway lights turned on, and the scent of manure and fried foods wafted through the air, fans filed in to the Grandstand like ants over a Popsicle on the ground.
Thirty Seconds to Mars mainly focused songs from their newest, self-released record Love. Lust. Faith. Dreams -- something not often done by big bands, even in this day and age where more and more acts independently release music. The band's frontman (and actor) Jared Leto did come out with a bit of dramatics at times. He wore a crown and priestly robes and gave off a Jesus vibe, but managed to charm the crowd with his near-flawless vocals. Despite the drama, he works it in his favor on their newest single, the anthemic rock track "Do or Die."
As long as you are famous, good-looking, and have a mic, people will laugh at anything you say. From his view onstage, Jared taunted and teased a couple on the Sky Ride that hung in the air for what seemed like forever. Into his mic, Leto called out to them to give four swift kicks if they were alright, causing the audience to roar in laughter.
All eyes were on Leto for Thirty Second to Mars's set, making it seem that poor Shannon Leto and Tomo Milicevic were just background players, never getting their moment to shine. (To be fair, Jared did just win an Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyer's Club.) Still, he made his central presence worth it during pieces like "Kings and Queens," when he left the stage with no regard for his own safety to climb through the crowd, clutching hands with fans. On his way back to the stage, he knocked over a guy, and stops to help him up. And he showed it again when he pulled dozens of kids from the pit, inviting them onstage to be with him and to sing. It's acts like these that keep it from appearing like the "Jared Leto Show" -- even if he did eventually take off his shirt at the end of the set to do a few acoustic numbers.
Photo by Adam DeGross
Mass marketing in rock music usually can open up your audience to many commercial opportunities, but it label you as sell outs, as Linkin Park most likely has experienced. In a complete reversal to Thirty Seconds' loose set, the sextet ran like a well-oiled machine. I guess when you've been together so long, you know exactly how each other will move on stage.
Photo by Adam DeGross
Unlike many of their counterparts from the rock-rap era, the band has evolved their sound to not fall into the trap that many of the angst-ridden bands did. Perhaps it's also because they write catchy songs that people like to hear, or perhaps it's because they are extremely talented musicians that don't just focus on looking good onstage. Each performance has the explosive energy that is felt in every corner of the room -- good thing they were playing outside.
Like a sullen teenager who eventually tires of being so bitter all of the time, the band grew up and out of that part of their lives and began to write pieces that questioned the meaning of life. Their set ran the full length of their catalog and featured intensely angry tracks like "One Step Closer" to existential songs like their new single "Guilty All the Same."
Photos by Adam DeGross
Each band member is important to the sound, and each one was allowed to show what they could do. Sometimes there was so much going on, you had no clue what to look at. It was sensory overload -- in a good way. The truly profound talent came with Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda's vocals, sometimes trading and dancing with each other, sometimes blending as if they were one. Even at their age -- Chester, in his crouched stance with one foot on a stage platform, and Mike, whose movements are reminiscent of an non-egotistical Kanye -- can still give musicians half their ages a run for their money.
Linkin Park crafted their setlist to gather in their classics, such as "What I've Done" and the poignant "Shadow of the Day" -- which allowed Bennington to really open up his vocals -- alongside newer material from The Hunting Party, but the audience really lost it near the end when they squeezed in all of the fan favorites: "Faint," "In the End," the last song on their five song encore "Bleed It Out." The band barely had to sing for all the voices the audience provided as they screamed the lyrics that shaped their formative years.
Critic's bias: I loved Linkin Park when they first came out with Hybrid Theory, and I fell out of that genre of music, but I think underneath, I am still an angst-ridden teenage boy.
The crowd: An interestingly confusing mix of bros and a Fair crowd. There was a lot of embroidered denim jeans.
Overheard in the crowd: As he is holding a guitar during a song, "So is Jared Leto actually going to play his guitar?"
Random notebook dump: Hate them or love them, you will know at least one Linkin Park song. It's hard to escape their music.
Linkin Park Setlist
Guilty All the Same
Points of Authority
One Step Closer
Castle of Glass
Leave Out All the Rest/Shadow of the Day/Iridescent
Joe Hahn solo
Burn It Down
Waiting For the End
Wretches and Kings/Remember the Name
In the End
Lost in the Echo
What I've Done
Bleed It Out
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