WORCESTER -- Linkin Park has ruled as the biggest-selling rock band of recent years with its albums "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora." The group's mix of rap and metal has been a contagious presence on the radio, but the band has never been able to fully translate its appeal to the concert stage -- until now.
Linkin Park has totally arrived, based on its phenomenal show at the sold-out Worcester Centrum Centre on Saturday. It was a long way from last summer, when the band seemed out of place on Metallica's Sanitarium Tour at Gillette Stadium, and an even longer way from its uneven date at Lowell's Tsongas Arena in 2002.
This time, Linkin Park clicked in every way. Singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda blended like brothers, while the band's sound and production (especially its smart use of video) were exemplary. And with band members running up and down ramps at either side of the stage, there were no dull moments.
Merging head-banging guitar with turntable solos and the crowd-pleasing antics of Bennington and Shinoda (who strode into the mosh pit to sing at one point), Linkin Park was riveting with its piercing tales of alienated youth. The song "Numb" was accompanied by a video of a suburban housing development in which each structure looked the same, while "Pushing Me Away" and "A Place for My Head" had videos showing troops in riot helmets marching ominously. The "From the Inside" video showed a boy caught amid civil unrest in the streets and shouting in frustration -- so loudly as to knock everyone down around him.
These emotional peaks were enhanced by music that has much more range than in Linkin Park's breakout days of 2000. The "Meteora" album has tracks that range from 70 to 120 beats per minute (versus the mostly 90-110 range on "Hybrid Theory"), and Linkin Park took advantage of that variety in concert. The heavy-rock mania was offset by tracks such as "Breaking the Habit" (which started softly with just Shinoda on piano and Bennington singing) and the ballad "My December." The pacing was superb.
Two other California-based bands opened. Hoobastank's post-grunge rock had its moments, notably on the torrid "Out of Control," but there was a certain sameness of sound. And singer Doug Robb was too earnest. He praised the crowd endlessly, like a gooey auctioneer, and the cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was a corny attempt to please the women in the house.
P.O.D. was harder-hitting and had more clear-cut highs, with "Youth of the Nation" (during which a dozen fans were invited onstage) and the heavy "Southtown." The group suffered from muddy sound, but it still rocked with the drama for which P.O.D. is known, despite the presence of a new guitarist, Jason Truby, who was still feeling his way.
(Linkin Park with P.O.D. and Hoobastank; At the Worcester Centrum Centre, Saturday.)