Review of Linkin Park’s concert at Sonisphere Festival in Imola, Italy by akiraFkrates
Everyone must know I’m a hopeless pessimist: that’s what people get to know first when they meet me, along with my colossal craziness. It helps me not to be let down when things go the wrong way, which is basically ¾ of the times.
When something important is about to happen, I tend to lower my expectations to an underground level, mostly even hypothesizing apocalyptic outcomes which would ruin what I’m hoping for. That’s the way I am, I guess, my manner to shield myself from the disappointments that could join the endless list of my past poor experiences.
Thus, you could understand what was going on in my mind before that particular Sunday, June 26th, 2011, when I got to be part of the Sonisphere festival in the city of Imola. Images like those I saw from the past rock festivals filled my mind with fear and no hope for a good view of the event. “I’m not even gonna see the stage”, I thought, “maybe not even the screens”. My imagination was trying to murder me with creepy images of an ocean of people in which I would have died asphyxiated or stepped over, without the possibility of witnessing the concert I was there for…
I even managed to sow the seeds of fright in the ever-optimistic mind of my friend, who I came there with: once we arrived, she was almost as worried as me!
As soon as we were able to take a look at the place, anyway, it was as like the heaviest weight had been taken off my shoulders; after four inspections (in a row!) by four different groups of policemen, we were able to step into the ‘real’ place, which after all wasn’t as immense as I had imagined it. It was big, of course, but we were already able to have a good view of the stage when inside, and it felt great to me.
This ‘Sonisphere’ has been a two-days festival, with live performances by several rock and metal bands alternating since 10 am to 11.30 pm, during the 25th and the 26th of June. We got there on the 26th, around midday (I don’t really know who was performing right then) and I got so relieved by seeing that people were actually able to stroll peacefully and do whatever they wanted all around: there was plenty of space to eat, buy merchandise, get a tan under the killing sun or even take showers…I didn’t care about all that, but, translated in my language, that meant I was able to get closer to the stage without having to hold my breath!
As we walked further in, we got so close to the stage that I could see the faces of those who were performing at that moment (‘Funeral for a Friend’); my heart found itself in my throat, without even knowing how, in the expectation of what would have happened that evening.
The weather was unbelievably hot, anyway, and we couldn’t stay in front of the stage under the sunrays for ten hours (Linkin Park were supposed to perform at 10 pm); we met up with another friend and went to eat into one of the garages (the place in which the Sonisphere was taken was a motor racing circuit). We hanged around, waiting and talking with lots of other LP fans about what we looked forward for the concert to be, until 8.30 pm.
We began our conquer for a good place to see the show during My Chemical Romance’s performance, which I would have enjoyed to watch, but was too excited to even pay attention to it. We got to the front by making our way along the right side of the crowd, which was less thick than in the center. It took less effort than I expected to obtain a good view: I was perfectly able to see Gerard Way’s face and I felt really lucky thinking about all the MRC fans who would have killed to be in my shoes at that moment. Unluckily, my camera’s battery died right when I tried to take a picture of Gerard, and I was forced to go without taking my own pictures for the rest of the night. As I listened (but not really listened) to MCR’s songs, I began trembling like mad and fidgeting on my feet: Linkin Park, my everything, about to be right in front of me…the thought of seeing them, skin and bones, without the mediation of a glass screen and an ocean in between, was something overwhelming. Their importance in my life has been so great that I’ve been likely to compare them to unearthly entities, chanting saviors living in my mind, my TV, my computer and my stereo. I’ve surely even gone too ‘deep’ in my consideration of them (they’re human people, after all), but you know what happens when the heart can’t be ruled and splendid melodies are there to help you up on your feet when you need them the most.
I’ve known about hypothetical insults from Linkin Park fans to the MCR’s band only by reading internet comments, a couple of days ago. Strangely enough, I didn’t notice anything from where I was. It has surely been because of the state of anticipation I was in, but I only saw a condom flying right at Gerard’s feet and turned my head to the crowd, to see who had thrown it, long enough to miss the singer’s reaction. It actually was pretty early when they got off stage, but I was so excited for the upcoming show that I didn’t muse further over what had happened.
The following forty-five minutes were a torture. Call me a weak person, a freak, a shallow fangirl or whatever, I suffered. Like, really suffered. I knew the concert was due at 10 pm and when all the preparation of the stage and the soundcheck started, at 9.10 pm, I knew that was going to be a long wait. The first thing we witnessed was the huge “Sonisphere” flag falling off the back of the stage, only to reveal a giant screen and all the tools that had been hidden behind it all day: enormous drums, a black keyboard, turntables. Everyone freaked out in their own way: so, everything had been waiting, all set up and everything, all day long, just in front of us? One of my friends whined about how it was useless to do the soundcheck and make us wait so long since they could have done it before everything started and no one would have touched them, but you know, it was anxiety taking the best of her. I, myself, was too caught up in the contemplation of Rob’s drums to complain about anything: it seemed like a big work of art fused in pure gold. Shining, precious, magnificent. And it was Rob’s own one, plain and bare for my eyes to devour it!
All through the waiting process, people beside us were trying to stretch their necks as much as possible to try and spot the band members getting ready behind the stage, for what it could allow to see. Useless to say, none of us (they deceived me into squinting like mad more than once) could see anything. Useless to say, none of us would have expected to actually find one of the band members staring at us just above our heads.
I don’t remember how (shock burned half of my brain cells off), but I found myself raising my eyes in order to make out the authentic, living face of Brad Delson appearing on the edge of the terrace that was few meters far from us. My heart must have gone in some kind of heart-ish apnea, since I suddenly couldn’t feel anything in my chest. My legs began pumping me up and down and my voice shot out of my throat with a little too much force that must have scared my close fellows away. I must have seemed like possessed, and hell, I even shocked myself. Blame Brad for that: he’s one of the Linkin Parkers I got attached to the most, and the fact that it was him there, and not, let’s say, Phoenix (all my love to Phoenix here), made the situation all the more special.
He was frightening, to say the least. Serious, motionless, pale like a ghost, smooth like a wax sculpture. Not the smallest smile nor a single breath altered his features. My friend offered her hypothesis: was he…surprised? Maybe, he wasn’t expecting all that people. I read they got let down last time they came to Italy, since there were less fans than expected, because of a hurricane. This time, by the time the stage was being set up for Linkin Park to perform, the whole place was crammed full (thank myself and my friends for having began our journey to the front an hour and half before), fifteen thousands jumping kids chanting for them to hurry up and kick asses. A pretty good way to apologize.
In all honesty, his grave look upset me a little, but it lasted an amount of time close to nothing, until he raised his hand and waved at us. He wore a black wife beater, and he was so, so skinny. Realization hit me right at that moment: he was real. I had the real Brad Delson from Linkin Park waving at me (well, yeah, we waved also at me), flesh, bones and hair, in all his perfection. He was perfect, so close to me and unexpected like the tale of a dream. And I was unbelievably lucky.
Of course, in the eye of that delicious storm of emotions, none of us was able to take a picture (whether because of empty batteries or high shock), and I still haven’t found one over the internet. I hope, someday, someone who had their mind clear at that moment would show up (insert whining sounds here).
It lasted just enough for us to be stunned. Brad vanished as quickly as he had shown up, leaving us shouting choruses for the band to finally come out and give us what we wanted.
But, damn it, what seemed like a month after, it still was 9.30 pm. We all were bouncy and impatient, and time seemed to be wanting to joke with us. I swear I was firmly convinced that my watch was broken.
About ten minutes before 10 pm, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele started playing. I had heard Chester and Mike’s version of that song at the summit in Hamburg some days before, and I was sincerely believing to be about to hear Chester’s voice intoning the words at any moment. Sadly, it didn’t happen, and the song we heard was just a remix of Adele’s song (by Jamie XX, pretty cool, go listen to it!), trying to get us entertained in the wait, but actually obtaining the opposite effect.
The time for the show came, but nothing happened. We were all starting to get impatient and quite irritated by their delay, and I was starting to get numb. My legs didn’t work anymore! One of my friends (thank her for having been behind me all the time) had to keep me up every time my knees gave away and made me fall backwards. I didn’t know excitement could do that to me, but then again, it was Linkin Park.
I burst crying when the large screen on stage lit up and showed an advertising (possibly related to Music For Relief) about Japan, with Mike’s voice in Iridescent as the background sound. I don’t know much more than that, since tears were blocking my vision. Following, a LPU advertising showed up, and the stage fell silent again. That was too much!
All the lights switched off, probably, ten minutes past 10 pm. We knew that was the time to be scared. The first notes from ‘The Requiem’ filled the place and the screen showed the blurry image of some bluish lights. As the song went on, and what I guess was Mike’s voice started singing with that high-pitched tone, the lights on the screen took the shape of bones (?), creating an artistic choreography. That was the slowest song I’ve ever listened to. Every single syllable seemed to be dragged abnormally long, and the only lights in there were those of the screen, so nothing could be clearly discerned. Nervousness was starting to get the best of me. I guess I’ve never jumped that much in my whole live.
After the last note of ‘The Requiem’ (which they had to be really fond of, since they seemed to never want to shut that mouth in order to finish it [but then again, maybe it was only my anxiety]), Mario Savio’s gigantic face made its appearance and his harsh voice flew all around. We all screamed like mad, expecting an energetic beginning with ‘Wretches and Kings’, wanting him to just say “stop” in order to get us started with ‘the real thing’. I don’t know how many times they actually made him repeat that word, but I can remember his face, in the action of mouthing it, alternating with the first images from the stage being shown on the screen: Joe’s unmistakable mustache, and his left hand scratching!
We took some seconds more than the normal to actually realize what was going on and understand, above everyone’s screams, that it wasn’t the beginning of ‘Wretches and Kings’ being performed, but that of ‘Faint’. First thing I was able to notice, was Rob’s head bouncing back and forth to the beat he himself was creating behind his drums. Dave, just in front of us, was taking hold of the whole place with his light eyes.
I knew our previous yells were nothing compared to our potential screams when one of the most important people of my life (excuse my sappiness here) came, running from the other side of the stage, just in front of us, few feet away from me.
Chester. Charles. Motherfucking. Bennington.
Alright, maybe I was a grasshopper in my previous life, because when he was in front of me I had the irresistible instinct of jumping forward to get him. I actually tried to, but the people before me blocked my attempts almost immediately. Oh well, I was too thrilled to mind.
Chester smiled throughout the whole show, and he was the one who made me feel the strangest. Afterward, talking with my friends, I learnt they had had the same impression.
His smile had everything: enjoyment, playfulness, energy, spirit, and something else that still makes me feel weird when I think about it. That’s what scared me the most when I thought about writing this review: will I be able to explain the feelings he gave me? Evidently, I’m not. You should have lived it to understand. If there’s one thing I can call my life worthy of living for, now, is Chester’s smile, nude and real in front of me, untouchable just because few people separated us. Nothing more.
He was like a fairy, and I felt like the luckiest witness of a miracle.
Then, there was Mike. I don’t remember exactly when he came our way, but I as hell remember the mess he caused: everyone jumping, shouting, crying, throwing their arms in the air, calling him… That happened each and every time he sung in front of us, most likely because he wasn’t there as much often as Chester and Dave (who actually was stuck facing us almost for the whole concert).
Mike was hot. Like, believe me, really hot. I know that’s not the first thing I should talk about, but their music was so amazing that I don’t even want to write about it, in fear that I may understate. As I took in everything the ‘live’ Mike Shinoda was, I tried with all my might to spot an imperfection, a difference, something that could differentiate the person I had in front of me from the bunch of pictures I had in my computer, but I couldn’t find anything. He was like a moving picture. So beautiful, you know. If Chester’s smile was that of a playing child, Mike’s own one was that of Apollo himself. He lighted the whole place up when he took off his sunglasses, and the crowd actually blazed every single time his lips lifted up in a grin (which was pretty frequently when he wasn’t at the keyboard intoning sad songs).
Subsequent to ‘Faint’, came ‘Lying from you’, ‘Given Up’, ‘What I’ve done’, ‘No more sorrow’ and ‘From the inside’. Gotta thank whoever spread the concert’s setlist over the internet for that, because my mind was completely off at that moment and I surely couldn’t remember the order of the songs. If you asked me, while they performed, which song were they singing, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you; I was on autopilot, perfectly mouthing every single word of each song, but not really understanding why and what I was singing.
After ‘From the inside’ ended, and the whole stage fell silent and dark, it took me a lot to realize that the song Mike was tuning, eye-closed at his keyboard, was ‘Jornada del muerto’. I’ve never seen them performing that one in a live show, and I surely wasn’t expecting them to start then. It was a great surprise for me, maybe the most beautiful surprise of the whole night (apart from my luck in being so close to the stage, that is). Mike’s voice was deep and breathtaking while he whispered his “mochiagete, tokihanashite”, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the vision of his incredibly peaceful expression. My heart beat all around my upper half as Chester joined the emcee in the humming of the Japanese words: their voices were completely different, almost opposite in their pitches, but they created something heavenly together. Being the huge Bennoda fan I am, I was in utter awe at such a scene!
‘Waiting for the end’ came immediately after, with the inevitable invitation, by Shinoda, to shake our fists up in the air, which we gladly followed. If there’s one thing I absolutely adored about my crowd company, was the way we meshed all together. We all moved like one, our hands waving back and forth without interruption, our feet never resting on the ground for more than 30 seconds, our voices raising high to reach the guys’ ears, to make them know that we were there and that we loved them. They must have understood, because they complimented us a lot and they seemed to enjoy our soaring energy.
Mike came back to his keyboard in order to play ‘Numb’; then, the black-and-white face of Robert Oppenheimer showed up on the screen, reciting the words of ‘The Radiance’. As his face faded away, Mike stayed at his keyboard, singing something in falsetto I have no idea what it was, but it was pretty deep. As he sung, Joe took out his Iphone – or what I guess it was – and recorded him, I think, filming his performance and even us! It was hilarious, you know, to see a musician making a video of you when he was supposed to be the one working and being recorded. But, with Linkin Park, you never know.
‘Iridescent’ followed, with ‘The catalyst’, ‘In the end’ and ‘Bleed it out’, which they ended with ‘A place for my head’s refrain. Mike wore his badass glasses again when the time to play ‘When they come for me’ came…what a gangsta he looked like! It seemed like he really was insulting us, in a playful manner that is, and the first “motherfucker” made us go crazy. Brad was amazing with his megaphone (yeah, he’s Brad, he can be amazing even with a simple megaphone), and Chester’s…uhm…how do you call what he was doing?…whatever, it was fantastic.
Another fantastic thing? Chester undressing. First, he unbuttoned his shirt and left it floating around his sides, and then…he danced around with only a white wife beater covering his sweaty torso (insert fangirling sounds here)! When he was in front of us, he smiled the most mischievous smile I’ve ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of witnessing. His eyes were saying: “see what I did? Like it? I could take off this little white piece of cloth and make you die slowly if I wanted”.
‘Papercut’, ‘New divide’ and ‘Crawling’ flew by in an eyebeat. The intro of ‘One step closer’ started, and when Mike yelled “one more!” I knew that was the end of it. We were one step closer to the end: the time of a song, and everything would be over. I put everything I had into that song; I believe my “shut up”s were the loudest ones there. Sometimes, I swear, Chester noticed me!
The outro for this song was the strangest I’ve ever heard; I’m not sure I understood a thing. But, right then, I enjoyed that mess. I had to enjoy every little second of that end. I saw Brad and Mike raising their guitars in the air, Joe stepping out of his location behind the turntables and Rob waving at us as he stood up from his drums. I felt like shouting at everyone to pretend we hadn’t understood that they were leaving, in hope that they would play along. They didn’t.
Rob came in front of us, throwing us his drumsticks (one of my friends caught one! I made sure to kiss it as much as I could [yay, yeah, I kissed Rob’s drumstick!]); he and Mike hugged, and Mike even blew us a kiss (and yeah, that was the second best moment of the night). Another Bennoda hug followed, but I was only able to see it on the screen, since they were on the other side of the stage. Believe me when I said I seemed really crazy when I celebrated that hug!
So, after everyone’s waves and ‘goodbye’s, everything shut off. My heart did, too, for a moment.
I’m not used to any of this things, I’ve never been to a meet and greet nor met any famous people, so, what had happened that night was something really marvelous. I know there’s people who even ‘touched’ them, really met them, but for that moment I felt like the luckiest person on Earth…the happiest one. An emotion which could only be compared to the first time the tiny hands of my cherished niece wrapped around my fingers.
An emotion I’m sure I’ll never, ever forget.
Thanks to those six guys, Linkin Park.
Thanks to Francesca for the pictures! 🙂