It’s still so surreal that we will never hear Chester Bennington perform with Linkin Park again. When the band announced that they would be doing a tribute concert for their fallen member, I hatched a “foolproof” plan of getting a group together to buy tickets. As expected, the concert practically sold out from pre-sales with only one of us getting a ticket. I was bummed, but happy that that friend got a ticket as he was the biggest fan out of all of us. When the band announced that there would be a live stream of the concert on YouTube, I was fully prepared to bawl my eyes out from the comfort of my own home.
Fast-forward to two (yes, two) days before the concert, and that same friend who bought the ticket asked if I wanted his ticket as he had a friend who ended up with an extra one. As much as I kept telling myself that I needed to save money, I knew this concert was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would’ve regretted not having. I didn’t even care that I was sitting by myself because I knew that I wouldn’t be very social.
Tears, Tears, and More Tears
I’m not going to lie, I was a hot sobbing mess throughout the entire show. Once the stage went dark to indicate the start of the show, with only a spotlight shining on Chester’s microphone during the instrumental version of “Numb”, I knew I was a goner. I quite literally felt my face contorting in a way that I didn’t even think was possible. My cryfest continued as the band’s first guest, Yellowcard‘s Ryan Key, hit the stage with “Shadow of the Day” only to be followed up with one of my favorite Linkin Park songs “Leave Out All the Rest” (performed by Bush‘s Gavin Rossdale). I also got pretty emotional during “Waiting for the End” (performed by Echosmith frontwoman Sydney Sierota) because it’s such and powerful and uplifting song that I’ve turned to in times of high stress.
My second-wave ugly crying came when they started performing tracks off of One More Light. Going back and re-listening to the album, it was clear that Chester wrote the words of these songs as a means of trying to fight his personal demons and the darkness that ultimately overtook him. Hearing these songs that were meant to to bring hope to the listener without Chester’s vocals was absolutely heartbreaking and also eerie at the same time. Jon Green, a musician and songwriter who has worked with the band for years, took on Chester’s role beautifully during “Battle Symphony” while Civil Twilight‘s Steven McKellar, who’s voice was praised by Chester as told by his wife Talinda, was the perfect choice for “Nobody Can Save Me”.
The two tracks that really got the waterfall of tears running down my face were “Heavy” (a duet between contibuting songwriter Juila Michaels and original featured artist Kiiara) and “One More Light”. “Heavy” hit hard because it was really the start of all the One More Light criticism, with its predominantly electronic/hip-hip influences that made Linkin Park nearly unrecognizable to fans. The underlying signs of depression weaved throughout the lyrics were missed because we were more focused on the fact that it didn’t sound like Hybrid Theory, a sound that they’ve gradually distanced themselves from in every album that followed.
“One More Light” was respectively performed solo by Mike Shinoda, and it was clear to everyone that he was fighting back tears in order for us fans to shed ours. All attendees were given a bracelet that lit up during certain parts of the show, and it came to no surprise that the first time they were let was for “One More Light”. The Hollywood Bowl echoed with voices singing along paired with sniffling sounds from those (including myself) who were crying too much to sing along.
Some Big Shoes to Fill
Because all of the artists did an amazing thing by volunteering to perform in the celebration, I will keep my opinions positive and only discuss the performances that I personally thought stood out. Not surprisingly, I found myself more interested in hearing how Chester’s heavier, scream-heavy tracks would play out with other artists filling in for him. I was pretty impressed with Linkin Park’s selections for “Somewhere I Belong” (featuring Taka from ONE OK ROCK), “Crawling” (featuring Oli Sykes from Bring Me the Horizon with EDM DJ Zedd on drums), “Papercut” (featuring Machine Gun Kelly), “A Place For My Head” (featuring Jeremy McKinnon from A Day to Remember), and “The Catalyst” (featuring Deryck Whibley and Frank Zummo from Sum 41 and Jon Green). Below are some of my many thoughts that ran through my head in regards to these performances.
- “Wow, Taka almost sounds like a young Chester. He could be a great filler if they ever needed someone for a show.”
- “Zedd plays drums? And somewhat well? Didn’t realize that he was a Linkin Park fan, but what an honor to get to perform with them.”
- “Oli is the perfect choice to do “Crawling” and sounds like a deeper-voiced Chester. I can also seeing him be a filler for future shows if need be.”
- “MGK was surprisingly decent and entertaining. Glad that he didn’t end up doing “Numb” because this definitely suited his style more.”
- “Oh my God, Jeremy! I’m glad he got to do a song! This almost sounds like it could be a real ADTR track.”
- “Awww. I know it’s hard for Frank to be performing because him and Chester were close. His passion really shows through, like he doesn’t want to let Chester down.”
- “I have a feeling Deryck will perform since Frank (Zummo) is here. Oh, there he is. He nailed “The Catalyst” almost as well as Chester. New Sum 41 really is starting to sound like mid-career Linkin Park.”
Apart from the show’s emotional beginning sequence with “Numb,” Mike Shinoda following up “One More Light” with original song “Looking for an Answer” only solidified how hard it will be for the band to recover from losing their soul brother. I think a lot of us thought that “In the End” would close out the show, but it ended up being all of the performers coming back out to the stage to perform “Bleed It Out.” There had to be a reason why the band chose that song to end the show, so there were no complaints there.
I’m definitely not the only person to admit that the day of his unexpected passing was a gut-wrenching, emotional and completely shocking day. I won’t say that I am the biggest Linkin Park fan in the entire world, but they’ve consistently held a spot in my top 15 favorite bands of all-time since I was a tween, and they played many parts in me growing up to be the person that I am today. While we’ve lost many amazing musicians in the recent years, Chester’s was the first death that really hit me hard because I grew up listening to his angsty, heartbreaking, beautiful voice. Anyone impacted by Linkin Park will forever have that ‘something is missing’ feeling when listening to the ghost of Chester on their recorded works.
This tribute show was a beautiful example of just how strong the power of music really is. Music knows no skin color, race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion. Music is a connection for people and sometimes is the only thing that can pull us from whatever darkness that might be consuming them. People from all over the world attended and live streamed this concert to give their support to the five remaining band members of Linkin Park, and it’s safe to say that we did #MakeChesterProud.