It’s easy to see nu-metal as a reaction against the dominance of manufactured pop music. But really, it’s not that simple any more. At least, not with Linkin Park on the scene.
These well-scrubbed Californians have been compared to the Backstreet Boys, and it’s not hard to see why. For tonight, their set is clinical and efficient beyond a boyband’s wildest dreams. They start with album tracks and finish with crowd-pleasers – and in between, we get an unfaltering series of huge, anthemic choruses, each one echoed by the predominantly teenage audience. In the spotlight, rapper Mike Shinoda plays the affable court jester to Chester Bennington’s hunched psychopath. In the shadows, backing tapes ensure that we don’t have to suffer any bum notes.
But while it may be stage-managed with an unnerving attention to detail, this is also a top night out. Linkin Park, you see, have written a bunch of songs that assimilate much of the best American angst-rock of the last decade. ‘One Step Closer’ boasts a petulant slogan to rival Rage Against The Machine: [I]”Shut up when I’m talking to you”[/I], roars Bennington, over and over, in a primal howl. ‘Crawling’ mimics the white-knuckle rage of prime Alice In Chains, while ‘A Place For My Head’ and ‘Points Of Authority’ take their cue from Faith No More’s ‘Angel Dust’: they never quite shake off their pop sensibilities though, no matter how angry they get.
Ultimately, tonight proves that while nu-metal bands are as unashamedly populist as the teenpoppers they affect to despise, their brand of teenage angst is at least preferable to the bloated excesses that characterised American rock of the late ’90s (think Nine Inch Nails or Smashing Pumpkins). The boundary between nu-metal and manufactured pop is blurring. But on tonight’s evidence, that might not be such a bad thing.