Linkin Park leads beefy Carnivores trio

Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington (left) and guitarist Mike Shinoda during the MTVu Fandom Awards in July. KEVIN WINTER / Getty Images, file
Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington (left) and guitarist Mike Shinoda during the MTVu Fandom Awards in July. KEVIN WINTER / Getty Images, file
Posted: August 19, 2014

One can't be completely certain why Linkin Park, tech-rock's most passionately intense ensemble, titled its tour "Carnivores" and brought the equally angst-ridden AFI and its poppier brethren 30 Seconds to Mars to play. Yet on Friday at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center, each offered its own brand of stewing sonic enterprise and meaty lyrical aplomb.

The often-underappreciated AFI opened the program with its complex industrialized abandon pared to a sparer, but no less potent, sound. This anti-lushness was impressive: it allowed singer/shouter Davey Havok greater opportunity for nuance, especially on twitchy tunes such as "Miss Murder." In an ideal world, AFI should be able to make this size venue a sell-out on its own rather than playing to crowds still bathed in dusky sunlight.

Actor/vocalist Jared Leto didn't look like an esteemed Oscar victor (for his role in Dallas Buyers Club) as he aerobically bounced on his heels while fronting the loud and crunchy 30 Seconds to Mars - that is, unless you count what looked like a crown on his long-haired and amply bearded head.

Leto, gloss-rock's most charming singer, made his stage time a crowd-pleasing one. If he wasn't running to lawn seats for high-fives, taking photos with fans, or raining balloons upon the audience, he was as much a cheering section as he was the clarion voice before the tribal pop of "Do or Die," the merrily menacing "Kings and Queens," and, most particularly, the grandly anthemic "This Is War."

At times, cheery aplomb seemed in direct opposition to what preceded and what followed 30 Seconds to Mars. Laser-focused ferocity, passionate intention, and clean sound are the things that linked Leto & Co. to their Carnivores tour mates.

Clarity and focus truly stood out during Linkin Park's set. With no room for muddle, vocalist Chester Bennington (rock's finest screamer since Judas Priest's Rob Halford), multi-instrumentalist/speak-singer Mike Shinoda, and the rest crafted brutal, marauding tech-metal without ever blurring its sound or intent.

When the high-voiced Bennington shouted there was "no other way" during "Guilty All the Same," you didn't doubt the futility of possible options. When he sang heatedly of being his "own worst enemy" through the hurricane churn of "Given Up," you knew he had no rival.

Park classics such as "Numb" went by in a hard, fast rush, and threadbare-to-the-bone new songs like "Rebellion" didn't lack for fury.

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