Just a day after Paramore’s return after seven long years, American rapper, singer-songwriter, and one of the founding members of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda followed suit, also after seven years, the last time being the band’s headlining performance at 2011’s edition of the Singapore Grand Prix. The multi-talented musician, who happened to be in the crowd when Paramore blew the roof off Zepp@BigBox the day before, was himself very warmly welcomed, as evidenced by the number of diehard fans who showed up decked in Linkin Park shirts, as well as the art everyone produced before the show, which was displayed on a screen on stage throughout the night.
Having recently released his debut solo record, Post Traumatic, which stories the aftermath of him losing his best friend, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, the show was personally a tough pill to swallow, despite wanting to focus on the progress Mike has made over the past year, having been through hell and back, with the rest of the late singer’s family, close friends, and bandmates in tow. The album however, journeys with the listener as they are taken past the pain, guilt, and trauma – and out the other end, somewhere possibly a little more optimistic.
Starting the night with “Petrified”, off Fort Minor’s debut studio album, The Rising Tied, Mike set the bar high and gave until his soul hurt, surely, as he kept pushing to reach greater heights. The addition of drummer Dan Mayo and multi-instrumentalist Matthias Harris provided a crucial, supportive layer to the experience as a whole, and allowed Mike to experiment with the extra bandwidth he was given. Knowing how he started out without the support of any backup musicians when he first embarked on his solo career, and seeing how far he has come, and how comfortable he is onstage, is truly a relief, especially understanding how closely linked his life is with music and with making it with his late brother.
Mike has always been genuine and raw, more often than not wearing his heart on his sleeve (you only need to look to the music video for “Over Again” to understand what I mean), and the show wasn’t very different from that. He acknowledged the fact that each of us may have come for a different reason and emphasised that whatever we feel is valid. “There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. If you come and you wanna laugh, or you come and you wanna cry, that’s OK – don’t ever, ever, ever be ashamed of that,” he said reassuringly. When the world’s on fire, all we ever need is you, Mike.
The 90-minute performance consisted of songs from his multifarious musical catalogues like “Remember the Name”, “Castle of Glass”, “Sorry For Now”, epic crossover mashups of “Waiting For The End” and “Where’d You Go”, and “Over Again” with “Papercut”, as well as his latest solo stuff such as “Crossing A Line” and “I.O.U.”. It was truly a treat to see him wearing all hats on the same night, as he smoothly transitioned through the hotchpotch of tracks which somehow all worked surprisingly well together. Not one to put on the exact same show in every city he plays in, he also threw “Hold It Together” into the mix, a christening of sorts we all were thrilled to witness. Even the order of the songs from when he played Summer Sonic in Japan a few days prior was also switched up.
He then took some time to properly honor his friend, telling us of a poignant anecdote of him attending the Obon Festival when he was just a kid, not realising its significance until later on. The Obon Festival is about celebrating those who have passed away, akin to how he intends on commemorating the memory of Chester at all his shows going forward, because he knows how much we need it.
What followed was a mellow rendition of Linkin Park’s breakout hit “In The End”, off their debut album Hybrid Theory, as Mike beckoned the audience to sing Chester’s parts as loud as possible – heartbreaking realising how he always did this, even when the larger-than-life frontman was around. As our voices echoed out in unison, tears were shed as we each remembered the iconic vocalist in our own way, holding every memory close.
Mike was quick to turn the nuanced atmosphere into a more lighthearted event, however, as he showcased his otherworldly chops and interacted with the crowd, at one point even engaging with a random comment about his shoes, which were from a friend he visited here. This prompted a quick-witted remark from an audience member saying, “We’re all your friends,” to the amusement of everyone in the room, including Mike. He was very clearly feeding off the energy of the crowd, using it to fuel the intensity level he was operating on, effortlessly spitting stanza after stanza.
The show, which was at times charged with tender vulnerability as well as ferocious punk grittiness, encapsulated a paragon of humility, perspective, catharsis, and acceptance, and culminated in an open-ended manner.
Even though the future of Linkin Park may still be up in the air, one thing’s for sure – Mike’s solo career is just getting started, and judging from the sheer extravaganza he managed to pull off, we now know for sure he doesn’t play, even when they press it, get it?