MANSFIELD — Chester Bennington is tight, compact, and wired; overloaded with both stillness and intensity, he looks like a scrapper who chooses not to broadcast that fact. Mike Shinoda is all high spirits, with a perpetual grin he can't seem to wipe off his face no matter how angsty his music. The singer and guitarist/rapper of Linkin Park seem like they should be at odds with one another, but the two made for a balanced pair at the Xfinity Center on Saturday. Maybe too balanced, as song after song struck the same notes in the same manner, all with the same yin/yang alignment.
Part of that comes from Linkin Park's sound, which for all its electronic and DJ flourishes was ultimately based on a hard ch-chunk of guitar and drums; every instrument was wielded like a sledgehammer. There was room for subtlety, but the band didn’t find it in the parade of odes to self-flagellation. And whether he sang the verses or left Shinoda to rap them, Bennington invariably screamed through the choruses of “Given Up,” “Rebellion,” “Faint,” and others. When it was time to soften the mood, he merely shouted.
Perhaps as a way of countering the problem, the band truncated plenty of its material to just a verse and chorus, suggesting that even Linkin Park doesn’t want to hear Linkin Park songs. But more crucially, that killed a lot of the momentum generated when dark, effective numbers like “What I've Done” and “Numb” were allowed to unfold unimpeded. “Bleed It Out” was a prime example, a hurtling rap number that was stopped dead in its tracks for a drum solo. The band needed to vary its approach, and its efforts to do so were counterproductive. Linkin Park was damned either way.
AFI opened with a dark, gloomy aggression that was a strong fit with the headliners, though frontman Davey Havok took a more theatrical approach to being the conduit for the audience’s overwhelming feelings.
Where AFI was all about catharsis, 30 Seconds to Mars celebrated celebration, with pealing guitars, rumbling drums, and anthemic uplift that sounded suspiciously like Coldplay with guyliner and an awareness of its own power over its tribe. The musicians were isolated from one another on separate platforms, all the better for hyperbolically self-regarding frontman Jared Leto to get too caught up in his ego-fueled star trip to connect with anyone but his own beautiful self.Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.