'F*ck depression': Linkin Park tribute concert celebrates Chester Bennington's life
"I don't have the words and I don't think any of us do," Linkin Park's pianist and vocalist Mike Shinoda told the sold out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night.
He didn't need them. The band, joined by a laundry list of famous friends, orchestrated a truly beautiful and cathartic tribute concert that was much more powerful than words. They celebrated the life of the band's singer, Chester Bennington, who died by suicide in July.
Helping fill the stage were members of popular bands who had their heyday around the turn of the century like Blink182, Sum 41, Yellowcard, Bush, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, No Doubt, and many, many more. Limited by no specific genre or style, it felt like the entire industry came together to support the band and honor the life of their friend. The musicians helped sing some of Bennington's parts or filled in on guitar in Linkin Park's songs, while others performed their own tributes.
Fans' countless crying faces were projected onto screens surrounding the stage, but the event didn't feel like a funeral — this was a celebration. Linkin Park's songs are dark and emotionally driven, adding a deep layer of intimacy between the band and its fans. It was hard not to choke up hearing the crowd sing powerful lyrics like "In the end, it doesn't even matter," and "Who cares if one more light goes out in the sky of a million stars?"
Every song, in some way, felt related to Bennington's tragic death and that much more meaningful.
Image: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Shinoda had once shared the role of band frontman with Bennington — on this night the responsibility was his alone. He proved he was up to the task, acting with professionalism and genuine love for both the music and Linkin Park's fans. A band performing without a lead singer may sound impossible — Shinoda called the concert one of the "hardest things I think we've ever decided to do." In honor of Bennington, though, Linkin Park made it work.
After a few songs to kick things off, the stage went dark and a single microphone stand covered in greenery was illuminated at the center of the stage. No one sang into the mic as the band performed "Numb," one of Linkin Park's most popular songs off the band's 2003 album Meteora.
After a few bars, the crowd came to the realization that nobody was going to step out from the back of the stage to sing this one for Bennington. It was on the fans to fill the void. The audience became a little closer with that knowledge, tension eased. Those who knew the words sang a little bit louder. The emotional moment appears in the video below, complete with chants of "Chester! Chester! Chester!" to close out the song.
While the music alone spoke volumes, musicians also used the stage to advocate for mental health awareness, which received praise and cheers from the crowd of over 18,000.
"There's been a lot of vilification of people with depression, and addiction, and being troubled, and being in the public eye, and being made fun of for the challenges that we as a huge community of people with notoriety have gone through. And it's an extremely, isolating, challenging journey to go through," Alanis Morissette said to the crowd as she introduced the song "Rest" off her upcoming album. "And so, for me, I just want to offer empathy to all people in the public eye. To all of you here tonight, to everyone around the planet who's grieving."
The crowd roared for Morissette, who's probably one of the last people you'd expect to perform at a Linkin Park concert. There was no ego that night. Nobody scoffed at the mix of genres or musical backgrounds the diverse lineup presented. The crowd may have been filled with rockers, but none of that seemed to matter.
Later in the evening, Bennington's microphone made another appearance as Talinda Ann Bentley, Chester's wife, took the stage to thank the Linkin Park family, the performers, and crowd. She introduced a new mental health resource, called 320 in collaboration with Change Direction, in honor of her husband.
"It is time to recognize that mental health is as important as our physical health," Bentley said to the crowd. "It is my mission to make it easier to have access to mental health resources ... Together we will build a recourse, not only for those suffering emotionally, but also for friends, and family members, and medical practitioners, who are seeking answers to questions about mental health, illness, and addiction, so they can best support people in their lives."
Bentley announced there were mental health professionals from Change Direction available at the show for anyone seeking help.
"Fuck depression, let's make Chester proud," Bentley said before exiting the stage.
While the show could have been somber, it was packed with energetic and uplifting performances, including one from Bennington himself. Using footage and audio from a performance from Linkin Park at the Hollywood Bowl in September 2014, the band played "New Divide" with Bennington at the helm. If I closed my eyes, it felt like Bennington was on stage, singing along with the crowd packed with devoted fans. The song, for a brief moment, brought Bennington back to life to perform one last time.
As the masses exited the venue they were greeted with a memorial wall, where they wrote tributes and messages to Bennington. The vibe was positive and people were in good spirits despite being stuck in an endless line of people slowly trying to exit the massive venue.
"I thought it was wonderful. I thought it was beautiful," longtime fan Angela Schippers, 35, of Moreno Valley, California, said about the concert after signing the wall.
"I just thanked Chester for all the beautiful music that inspired everyone," she said.
"It was so good, so fun. I go to a lot of concerts [and this was] one of the best concerts I've ever been to. And the thing is, I don't know all their music," Jason Wisch, a Los Angeles native, admitted. "It was poetic."
Before ending the show, Shinoda touched on a topic that was on every fan's mind: What will happen to the beloved band now that its lead singer is gone?
"You guys, we don't know where we're going from here, we certainly appreciate your support as we get there ... most importantly, keep Chester in your hearts and make Chester proud," he said.
This was so much more than a concert, or a memorial for a dear friend — it was proof that music can heal and bring people together for good. There's no doubt: Bennington would have been proud of what he saw on stage on Friday. Proud of his friends, proud of his bandmates, proud of his family, and most importantly, proud of his fans.