Linkin Park - US Airways Center - 9/10/2014

The Carnivores Tour featuring Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and AFI hit the US Airways Center last night in downtown Phoenix.The evening included some of the best angst-driven rock anthems of the past 15 years -- well, from at least two of the acts.

The night began with a very solid 40-minute opening set from AFI, who, like Linkin Park, has evolved musically since their heyday. While they still may be labeled as punk, newer tracks like "I Hope You Suffer" from their latest record Burials are far from the punk roots from which they came. Older tracks from their breakout record 2003's Sing the Sorrow dominated most of their short set.

While AFI could definitely hold their own in an arena setting as an opener, Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars clearly didn't have enough songs in their catalogue to let the music do bulk of the work. It was obvious by the middle of opening song "Up in the Air" that Leto would be talking a lot, as he stopped in the middle of the song to try to get people out of their seats.

Leto has ditched the eyeliner which he donned when the band rose to fame nearly a decade ago for a Jesus Christ meets Macho Man Randy Savage meets the Burger King Mascot look. Their was nothing to worry about if you didn't know the bands forgettable material because Leto would prep the crowd before or in the middle of almost every song to make sure they sang with him on every chanty chorus in between striking his Jesus Christ poses. Not happy with crowd participation during "Kings and Queens" the singer ran into the seated area of the crowd to make sure people were standing up.

Don't think that for a second that Leto isn't charming as hell; he is a great actor, after all and at times he seems like he is playing the role of a rockstar. The contrived act continued when he brought a young boy onstage before "Do or Die" and introduced him to the crowd. It seems more about shaking hands and kissing babies than letting his music do the talking. He showcased some great vocal chops on "End of All Days," which was basically just him singing and guitarist Tomo Miličević playing piano, but without the cheerleading act the crowd didn't respond.

Maybe he should have named the band 30 Seconds to Jared Leto, since there was little to no interaction with his band members throughout the show.

As the lights dimmed Leto found his way to a small stage behind the soundboard with an acoustic guitar where he pulled another young boy onstage and introduced him to the crowd.He told the crowd that he would play any song they wanted if they screamed a song title. Well, he ended up playing "Alibi" and "The Kill (Bury Me)."

That's the thing about Leto, he is like that annoying friend with a band that tells you how good his music is everyday and forces you to listen to it enough that you eventually just tell him that he is great just to shut him up.

Headliners Linkin Park did a great job mixing new material from their latest release The Hunting Party like opener "Guilty All the Same," which co-exists well with staples like "Given Up." Valley native Chester Bennington was clearly excited to play his hometown, as he was interacting with the crowd all night. They wasted little time diving into "One Step Closer" which was a crowd favorite. Linkin Park is one of the only bands from the rap-rock genre from the '90s that is still able to fill an arena. It does at times seem like rapper/singer Mike Shinoda spends a little bit to much time in the background playing keyboards, guitars, and pads instead of being in the forefront, which is dominated by Bennington. Shinoda did take over briefly with a cover of "Remember the Name" from his Fort Minor side project.

DJ Mr. Hahn has an entertaining solo with some of the best production of the night, as the walls of the risers had enough moving parts to make you feel like you were at an EDM concert.

For the most part the band played a similar set to the one we told you you about in Tucson from earlier this year mashing up tracks and shortening songs to keep the show moving at a lightening pace, which they executed effortlessly last night.

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, AFI at US Airways Center.

The Crowd: Fans of all ages and quite a few families.

Personal Bias: I don't hate Jared Leto, I thought 30 Seconds to Mars' first two records were really good. When I met Leto before the second record in Hollywood and I said hello to him, he was just so happy that someone stopped him and knew who his band was and didn't want to about his acting. Bennington and I go way back.

Overheard: "Jared Leto looks like Jesus."

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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