With a dozen big-name guests and 31 songs over three hours, Linkin Park and Friends’ tribute to their late singer Chester Bennington obviously had many memorable moments. Alanis Morissette and the band’s Mike Shinoda both performed new songs dedicated to Bennington, who committed suicide in July. Members of No Doubt, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, Sum-41, Bush and Yellowcard performed with the five surviving members of Linkin Park. Metallica, Paul McCartney, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan gave video messages that played in between clips of U2 dedicating “One Tree Hill” to Bennington during their recent “Joshua Tree” tour. But the night’s most powerful moments occurred when the remaining members of Linkin Park let the 18,000-plus fans take over and sing Bennington’s parts on both “Numb,” which featured an empty mike stand illuminated in the center of the stage, and “In the End.” They also sang “One More Light” at the top of their lungs, with almost the entire Bowl illuminated by cell phones.
As for the new songs, Shinoda explained to the crowd that during rehearsals for this show Morissette had played him some of her new songs, telling him they were demos. He said they sounded like finished songs to him — and maybe if everyone asked she would play one. They obliged, and so did she, introducing the ballad “Rest” as a song about the stigma faced by people who battle depression and mental illness. “I want to offer empathy to everyone out there and empathy to Chester,” she said.
Shinoda said he’d written his new song — “Looking for an Answer,” for which he accompanied himself on piano — eight days after Bennington’s passing. He talked about the role of music in helping him get through the loss. He also answered one of the main questions of this night: Where would Linkin Park go from here? He said even they don’t know. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen with this song,” he said. “If we do continue, I want to build on this.”
The song’s lyrics include the lines, “Was there something I could say or I should not have done?,” and “I’m just sitting in the dark, disbelief this is real.”
But most of the night was filled with cathartic, celebratory energy. Ryan Key of Yellowcard sang “Shadow of the Day”; Avenged Sevenfold’s M Shadow and Synyster Gates did “Faint.” Blink-182 performed “I Miss You,” then formed a supergroup with the members of Linkin for “What I’ve Done.” At times the cavalcade of guest stars made the concert feel like a combination of a telethon and awards show: Bush’s Gavin Rossdale came out for “Leave Out All the Rest,” Steve Aoki guested on “A Light That Never Comes,” Sum-41’s Deryck Whibley and Frank Zummo brought the house down on “The Catalyst.” Machine Gun Kelly joined in with “Papercut,” System Of A Down’s Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian on “Rebellion” and the unusual pairing of Bring Me The Horizon’s Oliver Sykes on vocals and electronic superstar Zedd (on drums) served up “Crawling.”
After the regular set ended with the emotional singalong of “In the End,” Bennington’s widow Talinda came out to read a speech, in which she said how much her husband would have appreciated bringing everyone together. “He would have loved this and would have loved everyone lifting each other up,” she said. She also called the five band members of Linkin her “brothers” and said how grateful she was he brought them into her life before wrapping up the speech by citing the hashtags, “F— depression” “Make Chester proud.”
That was followed by a powerful and now haunting video of Bennington introducing “One More Light” during a recent show in Birmingham, England. Dedicating the track to the victim of the Manchester bombing after the Ariana Grande concert, he said, “The one thing that can’t be defeated is love.”
All that was left was for the band to celebrate him with the all-star finale of “Bleed It Out.” Shinoda introduced the song by saying the evening was neither the end nor a new beginning for Linkin Park. “We don’t know where we’re going,” he said. “But we appreciate your support.
“More importantly,” he concluded, “keep Chester in your hearts and make him proud.”