When I first received my review copy of One More Light (Live), I’ll admit that I felt uncertainty and trepidation about how I would handle hearing the late Chester Bennington’s voice 5 months after his tragic passing. As a young teenager back in the early 2000’s, growing up with the angst and emotions that come with adolescence, Linkin Park were the soundtrack to my life in ways that no other bands could match.
I can still remember where I was on July 20th when the news first broke that Chester Bennington had passed away. It was mid-afternoon and I had just been talking with my former editor Brian about items unrelated to AltWire, when he wrote to me the words that I’ll never forget ‘…you’re going to need to confirm this’. Upon clicking the link, instantly emblazoned across my screen were the words ‘Linkin Park Singer Chester Bennington Dead’. My expression turned to one of horror. Frantically I picked up my phone and in a panicked blur…called every label contact I had, desperately seeking any hint or confirmation that this was a wildly disgusting and inappropriate hoax. When official confirmation came from Chester’s friend, bandmate and co-vocalist Mike Shinoda that the reports were indeed true, I wept at the loss of such a massive part of my formative years. The blue and red flame tattooed hand that previously pulled so many a tortured soul out from the abyss had fallen victim to his own demons, and the voice of a generation was gone.
As fellow musicians, publications, fans, and the industry at large processed his passing, Linkin Park held an outstanding tribute concert at the Hollywood Bowl with a number of guest performers that, while it certainly was an emotional roller coaster, was a cathartic and important moment of closure and remembrance for Chester. A couple of months later, the band pays further tribute to Chester’s voice and legacy through their latest release One More Light (Live), out on December 15th. Recorded over the course of the band’s European tour earlier this year, and featuring many of their biggest hits, this record enshrines the incredible performances Chester gave in what would tragically become his final shows.
And what a fantastic and beautiful tribute it is.
There is something equally haunting, yet beautiful about the display of Chester’s talent over the album’s 16 tracks. Songs like “New Divide” (from the Transformers 2 Soundtrack) are performed with a vigor and aggression that rival the studio version, while the album’s stripped down and mostly acoustic songs like “Crawling” and “One More Light” pack a new emotional wallop in light of the tragedy that came only months after the band’s latest and most personal studio album, One More Light, was released. It’s hard not to hear these tracks and be overcome with emotion, when confronted with the reality that the voice we hear front and center on this live album is gone.
And perhaps that is what makes this record so somber, emotional, and impactful. Every song and every sung syllable seems to take on new meaning and feeling in light of the circumstances. The band for the most part is in top form on these tracks, and the mixing is so well done: it feels as if you are there in the crowd singing along. On “Sharp Edges,” Chester comments, and comedically so, “Man, playing guitar and singing is really hard” after struggling slightly with the guitar part, just before dusting himself off and delivering a rock-solid performance of “Numb.” Moments like those demonstrate exactly why he was, and will forever be, one of the best to ever do it. In promoting this record, the band stated that “the shows we played together during the early summer of 2017 were extraordinary” and it’s not hard to see why the band felt that way when listening to Chester deliver some of his most vulnerable and impassioned performances. This is an album that really needed an accompanying live DVD, but even without visual aids, it’s hard not to envision what it was like to be at one of those shows. When the album first begins and the lyrics to ‘Roads Untraveled’ play through a vocoder, it’s impossible not to get chills, as you would during those moments before Linkin Park would take the stage. It’s a beautifully haunting moment that sets the tone for the rest of the album, and prepares the listener for what’s about to come.
It’s hard to say how fans will receive this album. For me, the album was therapeutic, but also bittersweet considering that this will likely be Linkin Park’s last release to feature Chester’s vocals. While the future of the band itself remains uncertain, with no plans announced for any unreleased material and demos from the group’s 20-year history, we have no guarantee we will ever hear another release featuring Chester Bennington. Therefore, in providing fans this powerful look inside the magic that was the One More Light Tour, Chester has been afforded a chance to give his final performance to the world, and one that will live on for eternity. One More Light(Live) is a permanent time capsule of a vocalist at his absolute peak, who departed from this world far too soon. What begins as a sad reminder of what fans would have seen on the band’s North American tour ends as a celebration of everything that made Chester Bennington so truly special.
Fittingly, we have decided that, unlike any our other album reviews, we will not provide a score for this album. The record is not a display of new material, subject to the opinions and scores of the masses. Instead, it is a beautiful goodbye, which allows us to hear Chester doing what he loved most – extending his hand to his fans one last time.
So crank this CD up to 11, grab your lighters or your cell phones. This is one show you will not want to miss.