If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one... Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. -- Bhagavad Gita
From the first moment that "Requiem" -- from Linkin Park's album A Thousand Suns -- began to play, ripples of peripatetic paroxysms began to spread across the sold out Madison Square Garden arena on the evening of February 4. Peripatetic, because the source of LP's music was dynamic, shifting from percussion to keyboards to the trading lead rapid-fire vocals of rapping Mike Shinoda to Chester Bennington whose signature is a primal full-voiced "scream."
Paroxysms, because of the sharp emotional response of the audience, bubbling up in fits and starts in response to and in anticipation of their set list, sampled from landscapes sometimes raw and sensual to the discovery of one's deepest fears and weaknesses (I've felt this way before / So insecure!, "Crawling") to stark pronouncements of independence (I won't waste myself on you!, "From The Inside")
These ripples in the audience brought to mind the scene in "Avatar" when Jake first touched the Helicoradian flowers, but with opposite effect. He touches one and it responds immediately as if a raw nerve, retreating. He touches another, and the sensitive flowers respond as a community, hundreds reacting in the blink of an eye.
Here the audience opened up and let loose, tentatively at first, and then as a community of some 20,000. Outward appearances did not matter, ranging from pre-teens to teens in sneakers and Goth garb to young professionals fresh from a day's work to moms and dads linked to Linkin Park via their children. It was a delight to observe, and participate in, well, the community paroxysms.
Like this, there were the giggling Asian teens transformed into hard core rockers, in a moment seeming to begin convulsions during "Blackout" (No / you've gotta get it inside / You push it back down / You push it back down).
Like this, there was the mom and her teen daughter, seemingly distant at first (daughter texting during intermission, mom bored out of place) becoming a joyful dancing duo in the aisles during "In the End" (There's only one thing you should know / I tried so hard / And got so far / But in the end / It doesn't even matter). Indeed.
Like this, there was my young son and I, celebrating his birthday, at his first concert, tentatively transforming into rockers in our own right, sharing grins abound throughout, including "One Step Closer" (I need a little room to breathe / Cause I'm one step closer to the edge / And I'm about to break!)
With "The Radiance," LP presented a curious blend of rhythm and film; as the song unfolds, an enormous projection of Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear weapons, appears, filling the arena with his voice:
We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form, and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
-- Robert Oppenheimer
As he speaks, the film appears to be controlled via keyboards, projecting smoothly, then paused, then "wrapped" in a loop highlighting Oppenheimer's mouth, transitioning to a live projection of Mike Shinoda (what is the message?)
There is much more to share, but I don't want to spoil it. The thousands of fans engaged with mobile devices throughout their performance foretold future performances enhanced by the audience's emotions shared by text, photos and video linked to the giant screen on stage. Imagine an interactive version of songs like "The Radiance" in which the band and the audience peform and experience the art as a tapestry of music, video and texts, creating a unique experience for each arena.
Follow Dr. Jeffrey H. Toney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jefftoney