I’ll answer two questions right off the bat: 1) Yes, it was awesome, and 2) no, it won’t be the last concert I ever go to.
I was quite surprised, however, by the set list the band selected to play. Not because they played songs I didn’t know or like (I know and like almost all of Linkin Park’s songs, so that’s never a concern). Rather, it was because their set all at once caused me to perceive the band in a different way than I’d previously done all the years I’ve been a fan, since 2000.
Which, in turn, recalled me to the fact that what a music-lover/reader/viewer takes away from a song/novel/movie/TV show/etc. might be wildly different from the intended message of the artist that produced it.
At times, I was quite stridently reminded of this fact.
“I am not a pattern to be followed”
This will likely come as no surprise to my friends who knew I meant to attend the concert. As I mentioned in a previous post, people are always shocked when I tell them Linkin Park is my favourite band, thinking their sound much too hard for someone whose other preferred musicians include Sarah Harmer, Tracy Chapman, Moby, Tori Amos, and Yanni.
I won’t argue that Linkin Park’s sound harder than everything else I listen to (which I do like sometimes, especially when working out or driving on the highway). I personally, however, have never found them as intense as some of the other popular alt-rock bands like Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, or Limp Bizkit.
Many of their songs are actually quite moderate and at times anthemic (particularly, but not exclusively, on their more recent albums). Meanwhile even their harder, screamier tracks nonetheless possess a real musicality.
This is due to the band’s counterpoint of melodic guitar riffs, mostly pleasant lead vocals, rapping, interesting electronic and programming effects, and angsty lyrics I’ve been able to relate to since my mid-20s – first on the subject of tormented relationships and self-identity…
I’ve lied to you/The same way that I always do/This is the last smile/That I’ll fake for the sake of being with you (“Pushing Me Away”, 2000)
And I’d give it all away/Just to have somewhere to go to/Give it all away/To have someone to come home to (“My December”, 2001)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real/I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along/Somewhere I belong (“Somewhere I Belong”, 2003)
…and now, twelve years and five progressively more sedate albums later, angst of a more existential and societal sort:
I’m swimming in the smoke/Of bridges I have burned/So don’t apologize/I’m losing what I don’t deserve. (“Burning in the Skies”, 2010)
Steel unload, final blow/We the animals take control/Hear us now, clear and true/Wretches and kings we come for you (“Wretches and Kings”, 2010)
This air between us is getting thinner now/Into winter now, bitter sweet/Across that horizon this sun is setting down/You’re forgetting now, it’s time you let me go, let me go (“I’ll Be Gone”, 2012)
“It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head”
Given this diversity of both Linkin Park’s song subjects and their ever-evolving sound, I likewise expected the concert would present a good mix of styles and tempos, with angry screeching well-balanced with wistful introspection.
Alas, such was not the case.
Their set included many of the hardest songs in their catalogue (including the hardest of their newer, milder tracks), performed in the hardest, rockiest/borderline metal-ist style possible, with much scream-singing, much scary imagery on the screen behind them (e.g. snarling hyenas and skulls), much arm-pumping by the crowd, a few pyrotechnics whose heat I could feel even at the very back of the arena floor, and the bass, distortion, and volume turned waaaaay up.
(It’s bad news when I don’t even recognize the start of my favourite Linkin Park song because I can’t detect any difference between the various tones in the intro’s opening bars.)
Perhaps this unexpected hardness was due to the venue, which was the two-thirds full arena of Vancouver’s NHL hockey team. Perhaps it was due to who Linkin Park was touring with (Incubus). Perhaps it was due to the crowd they knew the two aforementioned considerations would attract – a crowd that was a little drunk, a little high, a little rough, and a lot dressed in somber colours.
Or perhaps that’s just the way Linkin Park perceives themselves. Maybe at their core, regardless of the other elements of their sound, they consider themselves a loud, raging, hardcore rock band, the way I perceive them – subdued, tuneful, medium-core/edgy, and rather poetic – notwithstanding. Even my interpretations of the above-quoted song lyrics could be way out their compared to those of the band.
“What I’ve done…”
For such is how it is with the interpretation of art: there is no one true explanation of what a given work means.
Rather, different people will offer countless different opinions as influenced by their unique experiences, beliefs, values, biases, and preferences. It’s impossible not to, we are such products of our own pasts. Indeed, at times, people remain so faithful to their own experiences, they’ll shoehorn the work of art to fit its most prominent features neatly inside, conveniently disregarding any parts that fall outside of their worldview.
I might think at the above-quoted lyrics for “I’ll Be Gone” is about the death of a loved one while someone else might believe it to be about the end of a romantic relationship. Similarly, one person might look at a painting and see one thing while another sees something else entirely – something that might be completely distinct to what the artist had in mind.
The famous American modern abstract artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, had something to say on this matter. O’Keeffe is perhaps best known for her paintings of oversized, close-up flowers that have been (erroneously) interpreted as highly sensual and sexual. On my recent trip to New Mexico, I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe,
which had printed on the wall in one of the galleries the following O’Keeffe quote:
I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see – and I don’t.
Naturally, differences in interpretation occur within writing as well. In my novel-in-progress, there are specific themes I am presenting that seem all too obvious to me. Yet, after my experience at the Linkin Park concert, I wonder if they’re really that evident at all – whatever future readers of my story will, in fact, pick up on what I’m putting down, as it were, or if they’ll bring entirely different understandings to my work.
“I’ve let myself become you”
Ultimately, to quote Linkin Park yet again, “In the end/It doesn’t even matter” (“In the End”, 2000).
Regardless of whether my future readers come from a similar place and history as I do or not, we will end up united all the same in our appreciation for the power of art to convey more than just the sum of its parts – to convey meaning that is both personal in nature and universal in existence.
And as for my feelings toward being made to see my favourite band in a new light, at least temporarily: as I wrote at the start, I did love the concert, and I remain a devoted fan. One of the things I love most about concerts is hearing the variations in how tracks on an album sound live, for artists’ new interpretations of their work often lead me to find new meaning in them as well, which I love, especially with songs I previously disliked.
Thus, I just held on and enjoyed the wild ride. It’s true, I was shoved past several times by people trying to get closer to the stage, had my toes trampled, beer spilled on my foot, and was offered alcohol, drugs, and dubious company after the show.
But I also felt music I’ve loved for more than a decade pounding in my chest and under my feet. I felt the arena floor heave a bit with the collective energy of the crowd, and that was pretty freakin’ amazing. I was swept away in that whirlwind, pumping my arms along with everyone else and belting out lyrics so loud and harsh, I wrecked my throat and woke with a headache the next morning.
I made what I could of the experience and will now forever carry it, and perhaps someday use it to interpret another work of art in the future.
- There Were No Likes in 2006…
- “Don’t steal my armrest! Quit wrecking my night vision!” (or, Why I Might Have to Stop Going to Concerts)
- On the Edge of Something Wonderful