Linkin Park, an American alternative rock band, rose to international fame in 2000 with their debut album Hybrid Theory. Their following studio album, Meteora, continued the band’s success, topping the Billboard 200 album chart and furthering Linkin Park’s radio-friendly juxtaposition of nu metal and rap metal sound. What began as three high school friends – Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson – from Agoura Hills, California with a pipe dream, turned into a surreal reality after the band recruited Chester Bennington, a singer from Arizona who had been highly recommended.
With singles such as “Crawling,” “Numb,” and “In the End,” as well as a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, both Hybrid Theory and Meteora’s success catapulted Linkin Park into mainstream acclaim. While the band’s musical sound and personality often blended elements of rock, hip hop, and electronica, it was the vocal interplay and collaboration between Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (Bennington on lead vocals and Shinoda on rapping vocals) that solidified Linkin Park’s identity. Bennington’s vocal versatility coupled with his lyrical honesty – frequently touching on drug abuse, family turmoil, and depression – forged a lifelong connection with fans.
On July 20, 2017, just weeks after the release of One More Light and following the death of his friend, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington was found dead in his Palos Verdes home, a death that was quickly ruled a suicide. Bennington’s untimely death rocked the music world and left heartbroken fans wondering what would become of Linkin Park. Would this be the end? Would the band attempt to replace Bennington?
On August 22, 2017, the band announced plans to hold a tribute concert for Bennington at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California.
Linkin Park & Friends Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington, the tribute concert organized back in the summer, sold out in a matter of hours. With musical guests such as Yellowcard, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down, Machine Gun Kelly and Blink-182 announced in advance, fans from all over the world were eager to be in attendance for this once in a lifetime event. As crowds made their way up the sidewalk towards the Hollywood Bowl itself, they found themselves immersed in various exhibits and murals dedicated to Bennington’s memory and spirit – the Wall of Love featured fan artwork and messages of support received by Linkin Park during the weeks following Bennington’s death and employees handed out silk-screened ribbons with the text “Who cares if one more light goes out? I do,” that could be hung up on another portion of the exhibit to emphasize the importance of suicide prevention.
Photos by Julie La Crout
A certain somber excitement and nervousness permeated the air as fans searched for their seats inside the Hollywood Bowl. An unspoken understanding seemed to exist in the minutes leading up to show time — hearing favorite Linkin Park song selections performed again meant listening to them without Bennington’s familiar vocals. At 7:35 PM, the lights dimmed and the screens on either side of the stage projected candid studio images and videos of Bennington — happy, outgoing, full of life. A coupling of overhead stage lights then focused in on Mike Shinoda sitting alone at his keyboard while the remaining Linking Park members remained bathed in darkness. Without addressing the audience, Shinoda began playing and singing a medley of “Robot Boy,” “The Messenger” and “Iridescent.”
After the final few notes faded off into the distance and the crowd’s overwhelming response dissipated to nothing, Shinoda addressed the sea of fans before him. He thanked them for their support and love in the 14 weeks since Chester’s death, for all of their kind messages of hope and inspiration as the band healed from the loss of losing a pivotal member of their family. He spoke to Chester’s kindness, his larger-than-life personality, his desire to always help others who needed it. Shinoda then expressed his hope that the evening would not only be a formal celebration of a talented man who had touched so many lives, but a form of catharsis for those in attendance as music has the ability to heal.
One of the most powerful moments of the performance came early on as the band – Mike Shinoda (vocals and piano), Joe Hahn (turntable), Rob Bourdon (Drums), Brad Delson (Bass Guitar), and Dave Farrell (Bass Guitar) – played “Numb.” Without a singer present, the spotlight shone on the microphone stand adorned in flowers; a tribute to Bennington. Even with the absence of a singer, the crowd wasted no time joining in and carrying the iconic melody. “I’m tired of being what you want me to be / Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface / I don’t know what you’re expecting of me / Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes.”
While a slew of musical guests had been announced prior to the show, it was teased that there would be many other surprise appearances as well. The first guest singer to take the stage was Ryan Key of Yellowcard, who joined Linkin Park for “Shadow of the Day” featuring U2’s “With or Without You” during the bridge section. Fans were already on their feet, hands in the air, when Shinoda took to the mic and introduced Gavin Rossdale of Bush who would be singing “Leave Out All the Rest.”
During the short interlude between songs, fans were treated to a wide array of Bennington footage — a blooper reel from a MTV segment, an improvised song called “Unicorns and Lollipops,” a call to humanity as Bennington spoke about the Manchester Arena bombing before a performance in Birmingham, England, and a flood of other images that further encapsulated the singer’s generous spirit.
The next surprise guest was Alanis Morissette who appeared on stage singing “Castle of Glass,” with Adrian Young, Tom Dumont, and Tony Kamal of No Doubt and Dreamcar. Her breathy, powerhouse vocals soared over the audience as the fans joined in. As the song ended, Shinoda explained to the audience that when the band got together with Morissette, she played a song for them that she had written shortly after learning about Bennington’s death. The song itself served as a reminder that mental illness is a prevalent issue and needs to be better understood and addressed. Without any further hesitation, Morissette expressed a desire to perform it live for the crowd and this request was met with enthusiastic applause and cheering. Alone on stage, Morrissette debuted her original song, “Rest,” a lyrical ballad that spoke to the necessity of acknowledging other people’s difficulties and hidden pain.
“Battle Symphony” (feat. Jon Green), “Sharp Edges” (feat. Isley Juber), “Talking to Myself” (feat. Isley Juber) and “Heavy” (feat. Julia Michaels and Kiiara), all songs from Linkin Park’s most recent album, One More Light, turned up the volume and energy at the Hollywood Bowl. The crowd, which appeared to be one solid entity, could be seen swaying — arms high in the air — to the chorus part sang by Kiiara during “Heavy.” The familiar refrain from the radio hit gained strength in numbers as fans belted, “Holding on / Why is everything so heavy / I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down / If I just let go I’ll be set free.” What diehard fans didn’t realize at the time was that one of the most emotional moments of the show was about to happen and no one was ready.
Alone on stage again with nothing but a keyboard for instrumental backing, Shinoda began to play and sing “One More Light.” The somewhat simplistic melodic line combined with the heartbreaking (now more than ever) lyrics about losing a loved one to suicide floated above the crowd as fans struggled to grapple with the surreal moment; Shinoda’s smooth timbre of his voice replacing Bennington’s, understanding their friendship and history, was too much to handle for many. Tears streamed down people’s faces. Visible hugs were exchanged by strangers. But the heartbreak of the song transitioned to beauty as cell phone lights and wrist lights (provided to the audience at the beginning of the show) glowed against a backdrop of darkness. The song that had been performed by Linkin Park on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in honor of Chris Cornell gained new meaning with Bennington’s passing. This meaning was fully internalized as Shinoda sang, “Who cares if one more light goes out / I do.”
In a quiet moment of complete clarity and honesty, Shinoda explained that in the days following Chester’s death, he began writing a song, a song that served as a form of therapy for him as an artist. “I want to share this song with you. I don’t know if it will ever become anything more, but I want you to see the process of what goes into making a song.” A series of chords rose from the keyboard as he debuted his new song “Looking For An Answer,” a song that explores the concept of looking for answers during times of grief unsure if they exist. “I keep reaching for the light / I can’t find it anymore / There’s an emptiness tonight / A heavy hand that pulls me down . . . Was I looking for an answer when there never really was one.”
Shinoda, aware of the emotional charge left from the previous numbers and once again joined on stage by the other members of Linkin Park, asked the fans if they were ready to take it up a notch. The syncopated piano part to “Waiting For the End” began as Steven McKellar of Civil Twilight and Sydney Sierota of Echosmith appeared on stage, ready to carry Bennington’s vocal melody. The band, accompanied by Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon, ZEDD, and Machine Gun Kelly, covered “Crawling” and “Papercut” — iconic Linkin Park songs that had fans flashing back to the early 2000s.
The eager anticipation at the Hollywood Bowl became palpable as Jonathan Davis of Korn — with his familiar dreadlocks and signature raspy voice — took to the stage to perform “One Step Closer.” If fans had been excited before, they were no longer able to contain themselves now. Arms were waving. Bodies were jumping. And audible shouting and cheering could be heard over the instrumentation (which was no easy feat). This musical momentum seamlessly transitioned into the next number as Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down and Frank Zummo of Sum 41 appeared from the wings to tackle “Rebellion.” The previously programmed wrist lights glowed an eerie green, as Malakian, Odadjin, and Zummo motioned to the audience to join in on the chorus: “We are the fortunate ones / Who’ve never faced oppression’s gun / We are the fortunate ones / Imitations of rebellion.”
Taking a brief break from Linkin Park classics, Blink-182 took center stage and performed “I Miss You,” a song that became popular back in 2003. Remaining on set at the song’s conclusion, Blink-182 joined Linkin Park for “What I’ve Done.”
Seeing Bennington in the breaks between songs, and hearing his former band members talk about some of their best memories of him provided concert goers with the symbiotic catharsis Shinoda had hoped for at the performance’s onset. Brad Delson recounted the time Bennington came into the studio to audition for the first time: “He (Bennington) was able to hit notes that no one else could. He was so good that the other guy we had waiting to audition also, heard Chester and just left.” Towards the end of the show, a video featuring a series of well wishes and messages of support from other artists such as Metallica, Jared Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, and Paul McCartney was shared. The messages themselves were uplifting in nature, and captured the true intentions of the performance — to celebrate the life of Bennington with as much excitement and vigor as he would have.
Echoing these sentiments, Talinda Bennington, Chester’s wife, stood at the microphone at the front of the stage. While her voice quivered from the magnitude of the situation before her, she offered many thanks to her Linkin Park family and friends, the Hollywood Bowl for making the evening possible, and the fans for their unfailing support during a time her family needed it the most. “Chester would have loved to see this,” she said. “He always said that Linkin Park fans were the best and I see now that he was right. I am grateful for you all.” She briefly explained her efforts to bring more light to the issues surrounding mental illness and encouraged fans to continue using the hashtags #FuckDepression and #MakeChesterProud on their photos to further awareness. As she exited the stage, the fans could be heard shouting “We love you, Talinda!”
Without a visible singer on stage, the band began the introduction of “New Divide.” The screens on either side of the stage lit up with footage from a previous concert, focusing in on Bennington on vocals. Shirtless and tattoo-clad, the singer jumped around in the recording as his band mates backed him up presently on set. This immersion of videography and instrumental backing made it feel as if Bennington were actually performing on set at the Hollywood Bowl – an artistic decision that seemed both purposeful and intended. It was one of many gut-punches for the evening that left fans enamored and emotional.
The last three songs of the night featured M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. “Burn it Down,” “Faint,” and “Bleed It Out,” all classic Linkin Park songs with driving melodic lines and instrumentation closed out the evening in Los Angeles, California. The power behind Shadow’s voice allowed him to hit Bennington’s signature screaming lines with ease. During “Bleed It Out,” nearly all of the guests came out on stage to perform one final time as the video screens turned black. Confetti fell from the air as the stage lights dimmed. The crowd filed out of the Hollywood Bowl quietly as if trying to process what they had just experienced.
Bennington had many friends in the music world and their efforts to candidly express all of the thoughts and emotions that had poured through them during the past few months made healing possible for one night in Hollywood. Celebrating Bennington’s life meant appreciating his music, his kindness and generosity, and understanding his sharp edges he often shared in his lyrics. Fans left Friday night with a sense of renewal, and while Shinoda made it clear that the band is still unsure what their future will look like, one thing is for sure: Linkin Park fans will continue to #MakeChesterProud.
Linkin Park & Friends Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington Concert at the Hollywood Bowl Set List:
01 – “Robot Boy“/”The Messenger“/”Iridescent”
02 – “Roads Untraveled”
03 – “Numb” (with crowd helping on vocals)
04 – “Shadow Of The Day” (feat. Ryan Key of Yellowcard) (feat. U2‘s “Without Or Without You” in the bridge)
05 – “Leave Out All The Rest” (feat. Gavin Rossdale of Bush)
06 – “Somewhere I Belong” (feat. Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi of One Ok Rock)
07 – “Castle Of Glass” (feat. Alanis Morissette and Adrian Young, Tom Dumont & Tony Kamal of No Doubt/Dreamcar)
08 – “Rest” (new Alanis Morissette song)
09 – “Nobody Can Save Me” (feat. Steven McKellar of Civil Twilight and Jon Green)
10 – “Battle Symphony” (feat. Jon Green)
11 – “Sharp Edges” (feat. Isley Juber)
12 – “Talking To Myself” (feat. Isley Juber) (with “All Along The Watchtower“)
13 – “Heavy” (feat. Julia Michaels and Kiiara)
14 – “One More Light”
15 – “Looking For An Answer”
16 – “Waiting For The End” (feat. Steven McKellar of Civil Twilight and Sydney Sierota of Echosmith)
17 – “Crawling” (feat. Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon and Zedd)
18 – “Papercut” (feat. Machine Gun Kelly)
19 – “One Step Closer” (feat. Jonathan Davis of Korn, Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh of Dead By Sunrise)
20 – “A Place For My Head” (feat. Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember)
21 – “Rebellion” (feat. Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian of System Of A Down and Frank Zummo of Sum 41)
22 – “The Catalyst” (feat. Deryck Whibley and Frank Zummo of Sum 41)
23 – “I Miss You” (Blink-182 song) (by Blink-182)
24 – “What I’ve Done” (feat. Blink-182)
25 – “In The End” (with audience vocals)
26 – “Iridescent”
27 – “New Divide” (with Bennington‘s vocals from 2014 live show)
28 – “A Light That Never Comes” (feat. Steve Aoki, Bebe Rexha and Sum 41‘s Frank Zummo)
29 – “Burn It Down” (feat. M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold)
30 – “Faint” (feat. M. Shadows and Synyster Gates)
31 – “Bleed It Out” (feat. nearly everyone who guested earlier in the night)
File Photo: Shareef Ellis